Bloomsburg University Students Take Top Two Spots at Cybersecurity Event

For Immediate Release

Date: May 6, 2020

Contact: Tom McGuire, Director of Communications/Media Relations

Bloomsburg University Students Take Top Two Spots at Cybersecurity Event

BLOOMSBURG—Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania digital forensics majors Nelson Maher and Austin Pasquel finished one-two at the Pennsylvania National Guard Wi-Fighter Challenge on Friday, April 24. The event was part of the third annual Cyber Security and Digital Forensics Conference hosted by the Pennsylvania National Guard.

Held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the three-hour Wi-Fighter Challenge gamifies concepts to teach the foundational skills required by cybersecurity experts. 

To maintain the physical interaction involved in previous exercises, the organizers mailed the first 50 participants to register a Raspberry Pi Kit, a mini-computer popular with hardware hacking, which was the focus of the exercise.  

Maher and Pasquel, both of Nazareth, competed against more than 70 other contestants from 11 states. The expanded reach was the greatest benefit of the virtual event, according to organizer Capt. Sean Smith, deputy cyber team chief for the Pennsylvania National Guard.

“The key to success with the virtual event versus the live events were to communicate early and often to get individuals prepared and committed to attend,” said Smith. “We leveraged popular digital collaboration tools as a communication force multiplier.” 

First-place finisher Maher entered the event to put what he learned at BU into action. “I learned how to better apply the skills taught in the digital forensics program,” said Maher. “A Raspberry PI is a small, USB powered single board computer. Due to its size, cost, and ease of use, it’s widely used in educational and enthusiast projects. “ 

“As someone who has done a few cyber competitions, I was very pleased with how this one turned out,” said Pasquel. “I learned how to set up and use a Raspberry Pi, a skill I have always wanted to learn. The challenges started with background info on the Pi, to how to set it up, basic Linux commands, intermediate Linux knowledge, up to the final challenge of a reverse engineering problem.” 

For Maher, this area of study has always been an interest. “It’s the reason I chose BU. The maturity, age, and depth of the digital forensics program at BU completely blew the offerings from other institutions out of the water.”

After graduation this May, Maher moves right into a position. “I will start work as a junior penetration tester, but I want to continue to learn and teach others about the field.”

Pasquel, who graduates in Spring 2021, also selected BU for its digital forensics program. 

“This is one of the best cybersecurity/digital forensics programs out there as the program was built from the ground up with that specific focus,” said Pasquel. “All my faculty have been great. Dr. (John) Riley has been very influential and is my adviser on my research project that has been going on for more than a year.”

Pasquel is already looking to life after graduation. “I am considering graduate and doctoral programs, Department of Defense positions (from the possibility of a DOD Cyber Scholarship), and the private sector.”