As National Cyber Security Awareness Month came to a close, the Bronco Student Center’s Ursa Major opened its doors Tuesday to hold the 12th annual Cyber Security and Awareness Fair, themed Carnivale de Mystere.

Inspired by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “Stop.Think.Connect.” campaign, the Cyber Security and Awareness Fair seeks to educate people on the dangers that technology can pose on users and teach them preventative measures to protect themselves from those dangers.

Christopher Laasch, the lead security analyst at Cal Poly Pomona and director and founder of the event, said that this event is special because it tailors to “non-techies.”

“It’s not meant to be a geek fest,” said Laasch. “It’s meant to be just for your average person to come in and get a chance to learn about the dangers that are out there.”

The fair was divided into three sections.

Hands-on hacking

One section, hands-on hacking, allowed students to sit at eight tables, each responsible for a tech security topic. Students learned about topics that ranged from virtual to physical security, like how to hack and combat hacking of smart household devices like coffee machines and lights, how to recover digital cell phone data and how to pick locks.

Each table also provided a QR code that students could scan to discover more about the topics on their own.

(Courtesy of Dave Flores)

Poster symposium

The second section was the poster symposium. The display was a combination of a showcase and a competition where 39 posters constructed by students from CPP, other colleges and even high schools were propped up on rows of tables. Each detailed different concerns of cyber security, like password security, brute-forcing, Facebook phishing and the Dark Web.

Students tended to their respective posters and explained their topics to bystanders.

First-year computer science master’s student Amani Zamzami manned her poster on Facebook phishing. Phishing is the act of compromising users’ information by spreading illegitimate Facebook login sites. Zamzami said she thinks it’s a good thing to be teaching people about these dangers of the web.

“People might know about Facebook, but they don’t know about Facebook phishing,” said Zamzami.

Adrian Hy, a fifth-year computer science student, had similar sentiments. Hy, who presented his poster on brute-force attacks, a trial-and-error method hackers use to decrypt encrypted passwords, stated that “human error” is what causes most of the problems of cyber security.

Hy feels that hosting the fair creates a good opportunity to educate people about cyber security and ultimately helps to prevent human error that may compromise security.

The fair uses this student-driven approach to educate the public because it brings the mentoring to a less daunting peer-to-peer level.

Laasch explained, “When you look at your teacher [or] myself, we’re just old, creepy guys”you don’t want to talk to us” yet if you talk to your best friend and they tell you, ‘Hey, this is the way you secure your computer,’ you’ll just go do it and not think about it.”

Education aside, the students engaged in a competition with their posters. Attendees at the fair had the chance to select a poster they liked. Creators of the top five poster winners were awarded prize money, first place receiving $500. A total of $1000 in cash prizes were granted by the Los Angeles Chapter of ISACA.

Keynote speaker

The third section entailed a keynote speech from Ahmed Saleh, an IBM Security associate partner who leads Incident Response and Proactive Security Service teams worldwide.

Saleh informed students of the current trends in malware, the best approaches for individuals and organizations to tackle them and the rise of artificial intelligence being responsible for managing incident responses and security breaches.

In addition to those three main sections, representatives of Managed Solution, a partner of Microsoft, also held a demonstration of the Microsoft HoloLens, a mixed reality headset.

Only 25 people were able to test the HoloLens via a “golden ticket.”

Additional vendors at the event included Optiv, an information security company; Damsels in Defense, which exhibited personal security products; and LogRhythm, a security intelligence company. Students had the option to provide their resumes to these companies.

SWIFT, CPP’s information technology and security organization, and FAST, CPP’s forensics and security technology organization were also present.

On a fun note, the event’s webpage says the fair added a “splash of carnival” to the educative environment.

Attendees were offered masquerade masks, colorful necklaces, free pizza, free tickets to the Flappers Comedy Club and free t-shirts for the first 100 people who completed a survey. A photo booth and DJ were also at the event.

Ultimately, the goal of the event was to disseminate education and awareness of security to all.

“We want all people, even people with little to no experience with technology, to come to the fair and learn about new technology,” states the event’s webpage.

Laasch finds it rewarding to see students strike an “a-ha moment” when they realize how easy it can be to be hacked and thus the necessity of taking measures toward cyber security.

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