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CEAS Class Highlights Computer Security Issues

May 4, 2017
Nick Stengelman, Jordan Cooper, Raylyn Pettigrew, Jack Hess and Colin Riley
From L to R: Computer science students Nick Stengelman, Jordan Cooper, Raylyn Pettigrew, Jack Hess and Colin Riley present their semester project, "Daisy."

With an innocent-sounding name like Daisy, it’s hard to imagine the havoc she could create. But Daisy, the creation of five University of Wyoming students, could be a valuable tool in preventing an entire computer system from being compromised.
 
Daisy, along with 11 other projects, was on display Thursday in the Engineering Building. Nearly 40 people crowded into Room 1044 as students in Mike Borowczak’s computer security class presented their semester projects.
 
Borowczak, a professor of practice in the Department of Computer Science since January 2017, developed curriculum for the class, and tasked the students to come up with a computer security project. The class is part of the newly developed UW CEDAR (Cyber Education And Research) program. When the department meets the requirements, UW will be designated as a National Security Agency-Department of Homeland Security Center of Academic Excellence in cyber defense.
 
The students in Borowczak’s class worked on their respective projects during the spring semester. Some picked research-based projects, while others developed code and hardware for the class.
 
“There was a lot of variation in the projects but they were all very high-quality,” Borowczak says. “They showed a lot of creativity and it was interesting to see how their personalities drove them to certain areas.”
 
The group who created “Daisy” included Nick Stegelman, Jordan Cooper, Raylyn Pettigrew, Jack Hess and Colin Riley. Their project was named after Daisy Duck (Donald Duck’s girlfriend) in relation to a hacking tool called a “Rubber Ducky,” which resembles a common USB flash drive.
 
The premise is quite simple: the Rubber Ducky USB drive is plugged into a computer and appears to be a keyboard to the operating system, which in turn, can access system software, personal information, activate lines of code and trick the computer into thinking human interaction is taking place. After mining all the data, an email is generated to a user that includes all the information the hacker wants. It can happen as easily as plugging in a USB that a victim found lying around.
 
The team took about five weeks to finish the project and nearly 60 hours of writing code. According to the Stegelman, there aren’t a lot of solutions if this happens to a home or work computer. The takeaway for consumers is to be wary of anything they plug into a computer of which they are not 100 percent sure.
 
“We were paranoid before,” Stegelman says. “It’s a lot worse now.”
 
The projects served as a great reminder that as hackers advance, education on the security of computer systems must advance just as quickly.
 
“We’ve made more tinfoil hats,” Hess says with a laugh.


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