Investing in the Next Generation of Cybersecurity Leaders

by Dr. Mansur Hasib, CISSP, PMP, CPHIMS

Program Chair, Cybersecurity Technology, The Graduate School, University of Maryland University College

In order for any discipline to advance and grow, each generation of established thought leaders must mentor and invest in the next generation. The new generation can infuse new ideas, varied approaches, and innovative new ways to explain and present material. This is exactly what happened in a dramatic way at the 2019 Secure Summit DC hosted by (ISC)² .

John McCumber and Susan Lausch of (ISC)² invited me to organize a contingent of 30 graduate cybersecurity students and recent graduates from our award winning programs at University of Maryland University College to volunteer for a few hours at the conference and, in return, enjoy the entire conference for free!

2018 Master of Science graduate Tomiko Evans and current graduate student Niyati Jhaveri

This contingent of young professionals created an immediate impact. Armed with priceless smiles and uninhibited enthusiasm and energy, they greeted attendees, processed registrations, guided speakers and attendees to the various rooms for various sessions spanning multiple floors of the Washington Hilton. They were professional, helpful, and a source of pure delight to all the attendees.

Kingsley Okoli, Cathy Davis, Fasi Abera, Dr. Mansur Hasib, Deka Ibrahim

(ISC)² provided them training for their assignments and gave them a written schedule of their work. For the rest of the time they were free to attend sessions, mingle with leaders, talk to sponsors and attend savory lunches and parties. The organizers also hosted special career coaching sessions and meet and greet events for these volunteers with many established cybersecurity leaders. I learned from both attendees and volunteers that their experiences were awesome!

Felix Ngouatchieu, Divine Ntang, Tomiko Evans, Clement Tangie, Fasil Abera

However, the capstone of the event occurred on the very first day of the event. Well before the event, the blogosphere had been buzzing about 2018 Master of Science in Cybersecurity Technology graduate Tomiko Evans, a Federal Aviation Agency Certified Drone Pilot, and CEO of Aerial Footprints, LLC, who was gaining quite a following as a Cyber Rapper with a couple of original raps about cybersecurity and drones. She had been accepted to present UAVs/Drones are Disrupting the Nation, Consider Innovating Cybersecurity. Everyone wondered if she would actually open her session with CyberRap or demonstrate a drone attack during her presentation.

Tomiko Evans provided the answer during her groundbreaking presentation and became the first presenter ever to open a cybersecurity presentation at a major conference with a CyberRap that she composed and put to music - Drone Take Over. She jumped off the stage and walked around the room and got everyone to join in the chorus of “Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Technology Grown, and Now We Got Drones!” The applause from the surprised and energized audience was thunderous! She had won over her audience within three minutes of her presentation!

It did not end there. Evans shared her journey into the field, discussed the need for everyone to seek and find mentors, and then shared several key issues related to drone cybersecurity. For the finale, she performed an actual demonstration of a drone takeover by a hacker! She flew a small drone in autopilot mode above the stage. While it was still in flight, she took over its control with another smartphone, made the drone flip in the air, and then slowly landed it safely on the floor of the stage. The audience went wild.

This particular performance created so much buzz around the event that the (ISC)² leaders invited her to present at the National (ISC)² Security Congress event happening in Florida at the end of October. Here is a link to the video of her performance at Secure Summit DC 2019 as I watched in awe along with the rest of the audience:

I came away from the event inspired and energized that our investments in mentoring the next generation of cybersecurity leaders is paying off in a dramatic way!

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