Category Archives: Computer Eng

Cyber Defense CompetitorsThis past Saturday, Feb. 15, the UofL Cyber Defense team competed in their State Qualifier against NKU and Murray State. In 8 straight hours of competition consisting of systems auditing, systems administration, network monitoring, intrusion detection, and service uptime, the team came out on top in not only the state, but in the entire qualifier where teams in both Kentucky and Ohio competed to move on for their respective states. The Midwest Regional competition is being held March 28-29 in Chicago.

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Cyber Defense Update

Cyber defense has had some successful runs since the last update. University of Louisville won the CSSIA CyberWars competition on October 12. CyberWars is a hybrid competition that involves having to defend the same services as in other competitions (web, email, dns, etc.) while also having Kali and Backtrack Linux Virtual Machines to attack other teams with. The rules are less strict than with Cyber Defense, and virtually anything goes — needless to say, it was nice being the only team with working e-com all day. The team also won the latest CCDC Invitational, beating West Coast schools such as UC Berkeley.

The group is preparing for upcoming events as well. We will host an internal Cyber Defense Exercise next week, and will also be assisting with a competition for the CIS Department‘s network security course in December. The CIS competition will be run by Dr. Im and will include over 30 student defenders competing against industry and government professionals. This competition will be much more intense than the one last year, and everyone is excited for it.

At our weekly meetings, we have continued doing talks and training for all participants. Recent topics have included common vulnerabilities, access control, and cryptographic primitives. Our weekly meetings will conclude next week with the exercise, and we will pick up again next semester with more advanced topics.

Engineers and Scientists

By: John S. Usher, Associate Dean

My last blog post basically laid out the idea that engineers play a role in the design of just about every man-made object that we see in our daily lives.  I often hear people say that engineers “apply science”, that is, take the findings from scientists like biologists, geologists, chemists, physicists, mathematicians, and more, and apply those scientific concepts to solve problems.  In some cases that is true.  However, I would argue that it much more commonly goes the other way around.  Engineers usually design working systems long before the science is ever understood.

Take for example the steam engine, arguably one of the greatest inventions of all time, and the one which dramatically lead to the Industrial Revolution in the United States.   In 1712 the first commercially successful steam engine was developed by Thomas Newcomen.  The machine operated,  but was crude and very little of the input energy was converted to actual work, with as much as 80% wasted as heat.   Much later in the century, James Watt, (yes, that “watt” as in a 60-watt light bulb) worked as instrument maker at the University of Glasgow.  He was shown a small model of the Newcomen “atmospheric  engine”.  Watt studied it and in 1765 realized it could be greatly improved by introducing an external condenser.  Watt became famous for his steam engine designs as they became the backbone upon which the American mass production was built.

Yet, the actual science underlying the steam engine, namely “thermodynamics” was virtually non-existent in the late 1700’s.   Sadi Carnot, the so called Father of Thermodynamics, published Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire in 1824, nearly a half century after Watt’s findings were well known.  The first and second laws of thermodynamics were not known until the late 1850s, based on the works of William Rankine, Rudolf Clausius, and William Thomson (Lord Kelvin).  Rankine’s thermodynamic textbook, the first of its kind, was not written until 1859, nearly 100 years after steam engines were commonplace.

Now, I will admit, this is but one example of science trailing engineering, but we can see similar results in many other fields such as electro-magnetism, computer science, chemistry, medicine and more.  Look no further than the work of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and their success with building and selling complex computers while the field of computer science was still forming.  Again,  we see the engineer “tinkerer” in the garage making an invention work, to improve the quality of life for someone,  without the benefit of well-formed scientific principles to help guide the design process.

Fortunately, we are now seeing the lines between science and engineering blur significantly, especially on the cutting edges of additive manufacturing, nanotechnology, genetics and bioinformatics, data analytics and cyber enable discovery.   Scientists and engineers now work side by side to unlock the mysteries of mother nature and find ways to apply them to our new technological world.   I am enthusiastic and excited about the science and engineering professions and the roles they will play in solving some of the world’s most challenging problems, including, disease, poverty, terrorism, energy, sustainability, and more.

Thanks for reading!  If you want to learn more about becoming an engineer, check out our website at http://louisville.edu/speed

National Cyber League

Since our last update, Cyber Defense has continued our training for the competition by having a previous member give a webinar in a meeting about network security and through some discussion at meetings. Several of our members have also began to compete in the National Cyber League competiton which was started only 2 years ago

to provide an ongoing virtual training ground for collegiate students to develop, practice, and validate their cybersecurity skills. Using lab exercises designed around industry-recognized performance-based exam objectives and aligned with individual and team games, the NCL is a first-of-its-kind ongoing experiment in learning and gaming using next-generation high-fidelity simulation environments.

The competition is in a capture the flag style. There is an individual component which members are working on currently, and there will be a team component that members will join in on in the future, which has a bracket championship.

To continue our preparation for the competition, we are in the process of setting up a virtual playground to perform defensive and offensive testing in. We will be setting up several virtual machines with various Operating Systems to defend from attackers and practice some penetration testing.

Life Takes Engineering

Life Takes Engineering

Life Takes Engineering…Speed School Delivers.

People often ask me to explain what engineers do.  I always say the same thing.  “Look around you.” Everything you see was designed, manufactured and delivered through the use of engineering. EVERYTHING!  Not just the obvious techie sort of things like the computer on your desk  or the cell phone in your hand, but the ho-hum things like the carpet on the floor, the paint on the walls, the lights overhead, and the electricity powering those lights. And I’m not only referring to the engineering required to design the products themselves. There’s even more engineering required to design the processes to make and deliver those items to you.  For example, to make carpeting  (designed by chemical engineers) you need a huge factory,  structurally designed by  civil engineers, with equipment  laid out by industrial engineers, filled with machines, conveyors, forklifts, computers and controls designed  by mechanical,  electrical, and computer engineers. And I haven’t even gotten to what it takes to store it, transport it, and install it.  All that just to make carpet? Yeah, and that is one product. Now, I ask you to look around the room you are in right now. If you really take the time to look closely, you will see hundreds, maybe thousands, of individual items; each one requiring engineering for its design and production.

Bottom line, we need engineers to produce what life demands.  The sad fact is, however, we as a nation, are not producing enough engineers each year.  The US produces less than 100,000 engineering BS degrees per year.  That number needs to go WAY up if we are to remain competitive.  To do this, kids from a very young age have to be exposed to engineering, math, and science and they need to know what engineers do.  Speed School prides itself on its outstanding outreach efforts that attract thousands of elementary and high-school kids to participate in engineering camps and activities.  To learn more about those programs, visit our website, http://louisville.edu/speed.

We all need to do more to fill the engineering pipeline with talented young people so that they can meet the complex needs of society in the coming decades.

John S. Usher, Associate Dean, Speed School