At Telos, Innovation Internships Push the Limits

For 35 days, three teams of interns at Telos set out to address pressing cyber security threats—and to potentially come up with the industry’s next billion-dollar idea in the process.

On Thursday night, they presented their work to a shark-tank-like panel of investors and industry experts who gathered at the company’s Ashburn headquarters.

It is the third year for Telos’ Cyber Innovation Internship program. This year’s the program included a team of college students from MIT, Stanford, the University of Virginia and Georgia Tech; a team of college and high school students led by a Stone Bridge High School senior; and a team of U.S. Navy computer systems technicians visiting from their station in Hawaii.

Kleo Greenwood and Nadya Balabanska of team Pragmata explain their CyberSwarm malware detection system.
Kleo Greenwood and Nadya Balabanska of team Pragmata explain their CyberSwarm malware detection system.

Under the supervision of Telos Chief Technology Officer and Director of Innovation Richard Robinson, the program granted participants with access to the company’s leaders and technology, as well as to industry experts across the country and innovations being developed in national laboratories.

Their project pushed the edges of today’s technology.

The Pragmata team, led during the presentation by UVA’s Rob Fairfax, developed CyberSwarm, a software system that uses sensors—called ants—to traverse computer networks looking for malware and security breaches. Unlike typical network security programs on the market today, their program is capable of detecting and reporting network breaches in real time, not weeks or months later as some of the nation’s largest firm have found. They see applications for the system in the health care, government and banking/finance industries.

Stone Bridge High School senior Maddie Feigles explains the inner workings of the IdentID platform, designed to tag airport workers who represent the greatest security threat.
Stone Bridge High School senior Maddie Feigles explains the inner workings of the IdentID platform, designed to tag airport workers who represent the greatest security threat.

IdentID, led by Stone Bridge senior Maddie Feigles in its presentation, built on an existing Telos security platform to develop a software service that would help airports identify workers most likely to pose security threats. Currently, background checks are required only every five years. The program would monitor criminal records, the use of badges to access areas of the airport, and social media postings and would use an algorithm to rate the employee’s threat level on a scale of 0 to 100. Those with high scores would be flagged for review. The students said the service could help curb thefts from luggage and threats of weapons or bombs being smuggled around security gateways, all while reducing the number of people required to monitor employees.

The SUDO Technology team, led by CTN2 D. Espree, had the most elaborate presentation, using a laptop and a cell phone to conduct a network hack capable of taking control of a ship’s engines while the audience looked on. They developed hardware and software to monitor breaches in industrial control systems, including computers connected by serial chains common in industrial settings. They targeted the oil and gas industry as an early market for their program.

CTN2 D. Espree, left, and CTN2 J. Johnson prepare to execute a computer hack in front of a audience of judges as part of their demonstration of their industrial control system cyber security platform.
CTN2 D. Espree, left, and CTN2 J. Johnson prepare to execute a computer hack in front of a audience of judges as part of their demonstration of their industrial control system cyber security platform.

Judges said they we impressed by each of the presentations and by the quality of work completed in a month. However, no one broke out their checkbook right away.

Despite the increasing occurrence of cybercrimes, several noted that businesses aren’t eager to spend money on tighter security measures unless under mandate to do so.

“Security is a really, really hard sell,” said William Crowell, a national expert on network and information security issues, noting the perception among business executives that such measures don’t add to the bottom line.

Telos Chief Technology Officer Richard Robinson, left, with members of the 2016 Cyber Innovation internship program.
Telos Chief Technology Officer Richard Robinson, left, with members of the 2016 Cyber Innovation internship program.

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