CyberAuto Challenge a Fantastic, Rewarding Experience
Second-year Michigan Technological University student Justin Regina is always up for a challenge.
"Whenever I get good at something, I tend to drop it and look for something else that will challenge me," he said.
After being recognized for his technical skill at the Additive Manufacturing Competition at the SAE 2015 World Congress, an SAE International adviser mentioned that Regina might want to consider taking part in the 2015 SAE Battelle CyberAuto Challenge.
"When it came to hacking, I never really tried it, but I had always been interested in it," Regina said. "I figured I would teach myself the basic skills and then it just kind of went from there."
Regina heeded the advice and participated in the five-day camp, held July 13 -17 at Delphi's Innovation Center in Troy, MI, and "loved every minute of it." The 61 participants were divided into teams with an equal ratio of high school and college students and working professionals from a variety of organizations, including automotive manufacturers, federal agencies such as the U.S. Departments of Transportation, Homeland Security, and Defense, and research organizations.
"I had more experience with penetration testing, but some of my teammates had more experience with running python scripts or doing Basic C++ programming," Regina said. "In the end, we all ended up breaking up into different teams based on our specialties and then when we came back together we all were pretty floored with what each other had done. It was a pretty fantastic experience with all the diversity of skills."
The teams participated in daily lecture and instruction in subjects such as secure system design, secure programming, embedded systems, IT law, and ethics. They then applied their new knowledge to practical challenges on actual cars, with many sessions having time constraints to simulate real-world conditions.
"The fact that we had the chance to apply what we had learned was a lot of fun," Regina said. "I really enjoyed that because then you can actually work with what you were taught vs. you're taught something and then you have to try to remember what you're supposed to do with it."
As a direct result of the skills he demonstrated at the Challenge, Regina this month begins an internship with Booz Allen Hamilton doing reverse engineering for the civilian and military markets and working with the FBI, NSA, and Departments of Defense and Transportation.
At the conclusion of the 2015 event, the 27 participating students were asked if they would consider a career in automotive, and Regina and each of his peers readily raised their hands.
"I'd like to at least try my hand in the automotive industry with cybersecurity. I think that would be a lot of fun," Regina said. "It would also be a good challenge, and I love a good challenge."
- The 2016 SAE Battelle CyberAuto Challenge will be held July 25-29 at Macomb County Community College. To learn more or to nominate a student, visit sae.org/events/cyberauto.