Behind the Scenes at the CERT Program

August 09, 2011

INI students pursue internships all over the country, including right here in Pittsburgh. For the summer, Alex Corn, Brady Tello, and Rotem Guttman, all first-year INI students in the Master of Science in Information Security Technology and Management (MSISTM) program, accepted internships at the CERT Program in the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon. The CERT Program is well known for having the first computer security incident response team, called the CERT Coordination Center.

The students share another similarity as they are all scholars in the federally-funded Scholarship for Service (SFS) program. Offered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and co-sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), this program offers students full-tuition scholarships in exchange for service in the federal government for a period equivalent to the length of their scholarship, typically two years at the INI. Despite these two things in common, Corn, Tello and Guttman each have their own specialized projects to work on at CERT Program.

CornAs a graduate student intern, Alex Corn is responsible for working out the kinks in internal software products. He works with writing types of software that automatically test other software every time they are updated.

"The goal is to catch bugs that are inadvertently introduced during development so that end-users don't experience any problems," Corn states. He is getting his feet wet in quality assurance--an important skill set for software engineers to have.

Corn says both his summer internship and his time thus far at the INI have exposed him to multiple new programming languages and approaches. His long-term goal is that one day, after fulfilling his SFS requirement, he will apply his knowledge to the new challenge of entrepreneurship by opening his own technology/security consulting company.

TelloFor Brady Tello, his choices to intern at the CERT Program for the summer and to come to the INI for his graduate studies were 'no-brainers'. Tello gained a desire to do government work by spending five years in the army prior to college. This summer he is working on two projects at the CERT Program--one of which deals with facial recognition technology in videos where he gets to work with a team of video analysts. "This project is a lot of coding," Tello says. "It uses pattern recognition techniques to allow video analysts to automatically determine whether a person of interest appears in a video or not." Similar to facial recognition in photographs that is starting to occur on popular websites, he is working to apply this technology to videos.

Tello says his internship at the CERT Program is preparing him for his career goal. Although he still has two semesters left, Tello already has a job waiting for him as a software engineer for the federal government.

GuttmanAs for fellow classmate and graduate student research assistant, Rotem Guttman has worked within two departments at the CERT Program. He has worked with the forensics team on developing solutions for recovering data that is unrecoverable using current methods. For those interested in forensics, the INI has a cyber forensics track for Pittsburgh-based students in either the MSIN or MSISTM programs.

Guttman is currently assisting the workforce development team in improving a system used to train professionals in cybersecurity exercises. His experience thus far at the CERT Program, including the flexibility of the job and the truly multi-disciplinary work, is enough to make Guttman want to stay.

"This place is my dream job," he says. "It would be amazing to be able to achieve that right out of school."

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