Computer Science Students Make Cybersecurity Presentation to Russia

December 17, 2020

By Holly Hinson
Computer Science Engineering students Dalton Blake, Safaa Boukdir, Hannah Bulbul and Natalina Vaccaro during their virtual presentation. (Pictured clockwise from top left)

Computer Science Engineering students Dalton Blake, Safaa Boukdir, Hannah Bulbul and Natalina Vaccaro during their virtual presentation. (Pictured clockwise from top left)

A group of Speed School Computer Science Engineering students recently presented internationally to Russia on the topic of cybersecurity. The virtual presentation was made by juniors Dalton Blake, Hannah Bulbul, Safaa Boukdir and senior Natalina Vaccaro. The presentation was arranged by Assistant Professor Dr. Michael Losavio, who teaches in the Department of Justice Administration and in the Department of Computer Engineering and Computer Science.

Losavio organized the scheduling by connecting with contacts at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. “They are always looking for exchange project opportunities,” said Losavio. “The audience is people across the board interested in U.S. languages skill development and ways to bridge cultural and language gaps,” he said.

“Computer engineering students are perfect because they are adept at technology and familiar being online,” said Losavio. “They can solve any problem that they face in any endeavor, and they are working on cybersecurity, which is a universal topic and apolitical – everybody has to deal with it,” he said.

The student group’s PowerPoint presentation covered such topics as phishing, password protection, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and privacy settings.

“The international audience was engaged and prepared to ask questions,” said Hannah Bulbul, one of the students taking part. “I think the transition to online, especially with COVID has made this topic especially relevant. With everyone doing everything online, it gives more opportunity for hackers to take advantage of that,” she said.

Natalina Vaccaro, who completed three co-op rotations on GE’s product security team, said she sees a career in cybersecurity as a chance to take more preventive measures. “Engineers go on the front lines to take care of making applications safer so hackers can’t get into it. That is their main role and what I want to do when I graduate,” she said.

The student team also made this presentation closer to home – at Central High School. “My main takeaway from JCPS was the students wanted to know what made us choose this major,” said Dalton Blake. “For me, it is job security going into the tech industry. With COVID, it’s actually increasing jobs in the industry,” he said.

For Safaa Boukdir, she started off in the medical field but switched last year to computer engineering. “I switched because with computer science you can use it everywhere. With cybersecurity, it is important to talk about preventive care and protecting ourselves from becoming targets for online threats, she said.

Dr. Michael Losavio said he is proud of how the students handled creating and making the presentation – both across the world in Russia and across town at a local Louisville High School.

“You want to know why cybersecurity is ever more important?” asked Losavio. “You need only look at the recent example of Russians trying to interfere with the presidential elections. For me and my colleagues in criminal justice, one of the biggest problems in cybersecurity in the U.S. is they’ve only looked at it as a technical problem with tech solutions,  and not try to integrate it into a larger public safety regime, catching bad guys and putting them in prison,” he said.

We need to put together what these students have done but on a broader scale in the country,” he said.