State Students assist the Governor’s Office with Cybersecurity

Indiana State students Jordan Denton and Samuel Pickens have been working with the Indiana Governor’s Council to help improve the cybersecurity posture of Indiana.

The two have ties to Professor William Mackey who is a part of the Indiana Executive Council for Cybersecurity and one of the co-founders of Alloy Cybersecurity, a company that performs behavioral cyberthreat assessments for organizations where Denton and Pickens both intern.

“One of the best parts about working with Alloy is the chance to do something that will benefit others,” said Denton, a junior double majoring in Criminology and Cybercriminology from Mechanicsville, Virginia. “The work we are currently doing with phishing scams will be used to help Indiana businesses practice safer email habits. In any field of study, but especially criminology, I think it is difficult to implement ideas that will benefit a community. Being able to do that by working with Alloy is a really rewarding experience.”

Denton and Pickens assist with examining research studies, writing about the studies and offering general ideas to the group.

“We are currently working on a phishing study,” said Denton. “This study we are conducting aims to identify the most effective learning method for anti-phishing training. Ultimately, we want to figure out what type of training should be given to businesses and their employees so that the staff will be more educated about phishing scams and to know when they receive one. We work with the Indiana Governor’s Council and plan to give the findings of the study to them upon completion so that they can use this data to implement anti-phishing trainings in businesses throughout Indiana.”

“We’ve also been developing a scorecard to be implemented by the state government,” said Pickens, a senior cybercriminology and security studies major, from Clay City, “The scorecard is a security evaluation tool that provides businesses across the state with a means to measure their own security standing while getting feedback on areas where improvement is needed. Additionally, we’ve been analyzing a unique database of thousands of data breaches in order to develop actionable evidence-based data on the causes of the breaches.”

Cybersecurity is only as strong as its weakest link. The Indiana Executive Council for Cybersecurity provides Indiana with a group of people dedicated to getting everyone in the public and private sectors on the same page. In doing so, they can work collectively to strengthen the weakest links in cybersecurity and make Indiana safer from cybercrime.

“Working with the IECC has shed a lot of light on the inner workings of cybersecurity planning at a state level,” said Pickens. “The intricacies of the whole process included professional networking, brainstorming, collaboration, discussion and project management, among other things. It’s fascinating to see how leaders in the public and private sectors work together in order to provide Indiana with the best defense we can muster.”

The Alloy Cybersecurity internship isn’t just limited to cybercriminology and security studies majors. Mackey is interested in speaking with any student about the opportunity to intern with Alloy.

“Alloy is on the cutting edge of human-targeted cybersecurity– a largely uncovered base in the field of cybersecurity. The work we do is not only impactful but provides something the information security industry is in need of as well,” said Pickens. “Alloy is one big exercise in learning on the job through conducting academic research and analyzing data breach incidents.”

Alloy has provided interns, like Pickens, with an opportunity to interact with and learn from industry professionals.

“In my time at Alloy, there have been multiple security and technology conferences for us to attend,” he said. “At those conferences, we had chances to learn from and network with security professionals in professional settings.”

Denton and Pickens enjoy helping others understand how to prevent cybercrime and can’t wait to use what they have learned in their careers after college.

“Cybercrime is constantly evolving, and many businesses and law enforcement seem unsure of how to tackle the problem,” said Denton. “I think being able to work with and learn about cybercrime and prevention measures for cybercrime as an undergraduate will provide my workplace, wherever I end up, with a unique tool.”

“The IECC gave me a lot of valuable work experience,” said Pickens. “It provided me with opportunities to work on projects that make a tangible impact on the security of Indiana rather than just some inconsequential odd-jobs as some other internships might. By working on the IECC projects, I was able to meet and connect with some really amazing people in the state government. Every day we spend working is a day spent making a real difference. Knowing that is what keeps me excited about everything we do.”