Governor’s Cybersecurity Task Force (GCTF)

I am very happy to be part of the California Governor’s Cybersecurity Task Force (GCTF), serving on the Workforce Development and Education Subcommittee. The main objective of this subcommittee is to address the growing workforce gap; currently, there are 37,000 available cybersecurity positions in California, and 314,000 in the nation. About 70% of those positions require a 4 year degree or more.

The aim of our subcommittee is three fold: to enrich and standardize the educational pathway from K12 to PhD/Certification; to teach a general Cyber hygiene, both to the workforce and the public; and to help military, especially veterans, transition into civilian careers in Cybersecurity.

Computer Science at CI is well positioned to address some of the challenges:

  • A thriving program in Computer Science, with a minor in Cybersecurity; we are part of CyberWatchWest, we have a Cybersecurity student club, and we teach courses in Cybersecurity at the undergraduate and graduate level.
  • Experience in “hands-on” education, which is one of the aims of the workforce development. We have strong connections with the industry and the public sector (such as the SoCal High Technology Task Force).
  • An ongoing collaboration with the Navy, and have worked with both Navy officer and civilians as instructors and collaborators.

Please read more here.

SEAKER

Raspberry Pi controller, the hardware for SEAKER

In the summer 2017, while I was teaching COMP 524 (Cybersecurity) at California State University Channel Islands, the students were introduced to a project based on an R&D from the SoCal High Technology Task Force (HTTF). The requirements and specifications asked for a device that could automate the search through vast amounts of data contained in portable devices (such as hard disks and thumb-drives), looking for pre-established patterns in file-names.

The students designed and prototyped a device the we christened SEAKER (Storage Evaluator and Knowledge Extractor Reader), based on a Raspberry Pi, with a custom designed version of Raspbian (the OS running on Raspberry Pis), and a bash shell script for cloning such devices. The first presentation of SEAKER took place on August 7, 2017, to an audience composed of CI faculty and students, as well as investigators from the SoCal HTTF.

As SEAKER was being developed, it was presented at various other venues, for example:

We have also published the research resulting from the SEAKER project:

  • As the masters thesis of Eric Gentry, April 2019 [pdf]
  • In the proceedings of the 2019 Future of Information and Communication Conference (FICC) [doi]
  • To appear in the proceedings of the 2019 23rd International Conference on Knowledge-Based and Intelligent Information & Engineering Systems (KES), track: Cybercrime Investigation and Digital Forensics

The Beast project

The Beast at the SCHTTF forensic lab

In September of 2018, a group of CI students, working on their senior capstone project under my supervision, started to build a machine capable of massive parallel computing. We christened the machine “The Beast.” We undertook to build the machine following the specification of the So Cal High Technology Task Force (HTTF) digital forensics lab in Ventura County.

The Beast was built with five EVGA GeForce GTX 1080Ti, capable of massive computational parallelism, a MSI Z370-A-Pro motherboard, a i5-8400 CPU, as well as a Hydra II 8 GPU 6U Server Mining Rig Case, and power supplied capable of maintaining four big fans; cooling The Beast was an important part of the project.

Presenting The Beast at the Capstone Showcase

The students who participated in the project were, in alphabetical order, Noelle Abe, Benjamin Alcazar, Matthew Atcheson, Joshua Buckley, Joshua Carter, John Miller, Scott Slocum, Ryan Torres and Devon Trammell (the team leader). On May 2nd, after working on the project during both terms of 2018/19, and having overcome many technical difficulties, the team presented The Beast at the Computer Science Advisory Board Meeting and the Computer Science Capstone Showcase; following these presentation, The Beast was handed over to the SoCal HTTF digital forensics lab. As you can see from the first picture above, The Beast has settled in its new home, a cooling room at the HTTF lab.

Computer Science 4th Advisory Board Meeting

On May 2, 2019, we held our fourth bi-annual Computer Science Advisory Board Meeting. The meeting started with lunch at the top (3rd) floor of Broome library, and continued with a two hour set of presentations in the Handel Evans room, also at Broome.

agenda

  • 12:00 PM – Lunch, 3rd Floor of Broome Library
  • 12:50 PM – Transition to J Handel Evans (Broome Library Rm 2533) 
  • 1:00 PM – Welcome, Agenda Overview & Introductions – Chris Meissner
  • 1:15 PM – Department Overview – Michael Soltys
    • Student numbers
    • Faculty updates and hires
  • 1:30 PM – Welcome from the Dean – Vandana Kohli  
  • 1:40 PM – Student Presentation
    • Robotics – student Steven Romp
    • Beast – students Noelle Abe and Devon Trammell Soltys
    • CS Club – students Julia Maliauka and Ori Weiss
    • CS Coding club – student Michael Petracca
    • CS Girls Club – students Noelle Abe and Maria Contreras
    • CS Cybersecurity Club – student Richie Zins
  • 2:10 PM – Member profile – The Trade Desk – Zak Stengel, SVP Engineering
  • 2:30 PM – Discussion – Chris Meissner and Michael Soltys
    • How do we become a world class department?
    • How do we become a hub of expertise?
    • Examples of where we already achieve partially these goals
    • But we need help from the board to get there
  • 3:00 PM  – Transition to Capstone Showcase, Sierra Hall

presentation slides

AdvisoryBoard-MichaelSoltys

SRomp

ThePasswordBeast

Clubs-2019

NETSEC

Gallery

Pictures from the Capstone Showcase.

Brandon Artner software developer at Yardi

Brandon Artner is a Software Development Engineer at Yardi Systems. He graduated from CSUCI with a degree in Computer Science and Mathematics in 2018. While he was an undergraduate at CSUCI he was an Intern Software Engineer with TRAX International hosted by GBL Systems. He also worked at the STEM Center for four years as a CS and Math tutor. During his studies, he also contributed to research projects involving shape analysis and thin coat instrumentation. His senior capstone project was developing a cryptographic voting system under the guidance of Professor Soltys.

Computer Science 3rd Advisory Board meeting

On November 29, we held our 3rd biannual Computer Science Advisory Board Meeting.

There were two parts to the meeting, a lunch with presentations by CI faculty and administration, and the Capstone Showcase, which takes place at the end of each term:

1:00-3:00 Lunch and Presentations

  1. Chris Meissner welcome & introductions
  2. Richard LeRoy, Advancement
  3. Amanda Carpenter, Career Development
  4. Jason Isaacs, Mechatronics with
 Alberto Venegas, Ethan Warner and Mark Getzinger
  5. Brian Thoms, ABET
  6. Zane Gittins, HAAS & MSCS
  7. Michael Soltys, Chair’s report

After Chris Meissner’s welcome, and introductions of all present,

Richard LeRoy on the mission of the board

Advisory Board 11.29.2018

Brian Thoms on ABET

Brian Thoms distributed a draft of the departmental ABET document, and  asked our board members to comment on our PEO (Program Educational Outcomes), which describe what we expect from our graduates 5 years after graduation (they are different for our 3 undergraduate programs: Computer Science, IT and Mechatronics). Please read the PEOs, and send your comments to Brian Thoms <brian.thoms@csuci.edu>.

Presentation slides of Brian Thoms:

ABET-BrianThoms-slides

Jason Isaacs on Mechatronics

MechatronicsEngineering_AdvisoryBoard

Zane GIttins on Cybersecurity

CSUCI_Advisory_Board

Michael Soltys Chair’s report

AdvisoryBoard-Nov29-2018

Pictures from Capstone Showcase

Comp Sci alum Joel Helling working as a Software Engineer at GBL in Camarillo

Joel Helling is a Software Engineer at GBL Systems Corporation and part-time lecturer at CSUCI. He started working at GBL Systems, a government contractor based in Camarillo, in 2014 working on various projects from automated website design, implementation, and testing to desktop application development. Currently, he develops Test and Evaluation tools for the Test Resource Management Center (TRMC) and supports the development of the Testing and Training Enabling Architecture (TENA) Software Development Activity (SDA) including maintaining and updating legacy applications, and designing and implementing new software tools.

Joel completed his Master’s in Computer Science in 2018. His Master’s Thesis, under the advisement of Dr. Soltys, discussed the intersection of stringology and graph theory by relating indeterminate strings with undirected graphs and proving some properties of the indeterminate string and its associated alphabet size. The paper was later published in the Journal of Theoretical Computer Science. Currently, Joel is also working as a part-time lecturer for CSUCI. See here for details.

AWS/CSU Research in the Cloud series

It was a pleasure to speak at the AWS/CSU Research in the Cloud series. By nature I am not a strong promoter of any technology, and the browser, OS or editor “wars” frankly bore me; I sometimes use a “lesser” technology because it happens to be more convenient, or because I don’t have the time to learn a “better” technology, or many other good reasons.

However, as a researcher and teacher I am absolutely thrilled with what AWS has to offer. I regularly give tours of our computer labs at CSU CI (to local companies, prospective graduate students, CSU trustees, fundraising prospects, etc.), and I explain that three things make it possible for a relatively small and unknown campus like ours to compete in scientific & engineering output in the national and international arena:

  1. How cheap embedded systems have become; a Google Raspberry Pi is $35, and it comes with Linux and GPIO that makes it into a universal controller.
  2. How cheap 3D printing has become, and in turn this frees us to some extent from having to build an expensive manufacturing lab.
  3. And AWS: Amazon Cloud Computing Services. Instead of buying, maintaining, cooling and powering expensive servers, we can immediately utilize the required services, and pay as we go. This works very well for a university because we do not have to make up-front capital investments, and our usage is not always the same (e.g., practically no classes in the summer).

Material related to the talk

  1. Examples of AWS related projects that my students and I have undertaken over the last year: http://prof.msoltys.com/?tag=aws.
  2. AWS presentation slides.
  3. Video of the presentation (my talk start at about 12min)

Voyager: an implementation of a tracking pixel

Voyager is a software that implements what is called an invisible bit (aka, a tracking bit), that can be used to track certain activities. Voyager deploys the AWS network infrastructure, and its Data Base, the Relational Database Service (RDS). Voyager has been implemented at CI by a group of Computer Science students, as a Research & Development project for the HTTF. From AWS website:

Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud. It provides cost-efficient and resizable capacity while automating time-consuming administration tasks such as hardware provisioning, database setup, patching and backups. It frees you to focus on your applications so you can give them the fast performance, high availability, security and compatibility they need.

For this project, we are also using the following tools: EC2, S3 and Route 53.