Can You Hack It?

Criminal Justice and Criminology

What did you do over semester break? Darwin Salazar ’18 spent five weeks in Israel hacking into trusted web systems alongside some of the brightest up-and-coming technologists in the U.S. He implemented a variety of cyber-sleuthing techniques, like injecting malicious scripts, exploiting security vulnerabilities and spoofing his identity in order to expose sensitive data.

Salazar was participating in the highly selective and intensive TAVtech coding and entrepreneurship fellowship in Tel Aviv, one of 80 students from more than 500 applicants representing 50 universities in 11 countries. Immersed in this renowned technological ecosystem, he soaked in the real, tangible skills that are highly sought after by employers in today’s world.

“My time there was definitely life-changing,” Salazar said. “From visiting Jerusalem and the Dead Sea to learning hacking from some of the best to competing in a hackathon with students from MIT, Cornell, UC Berkeley, etc., I surely came back with a different outlook on life.”

Taught by Israel’s top academic practitioners, venture capitalists, start-up entrepreneurs and corporate leaders, the 33-day program offers five different study tracks, including artificial intelligence, big data, data science, augmented/virtual reality, and cybersecurity.

“I developed valuable web application penetration testing skills that sparked a deeper interest in my understanding of offensive security,” he said. “The experience taught me the art of thinking like a hacker which reshaped the way I approach cybersecurity.”

Salazar attended cybersecurity classes for up to five hours a day, five days a week. He focused on developing a more secure platform for the management of critical IoT devices such as industrial control systems and autonomous vehicles. Other projects involved AI-enhanced facial recognition, predictive analysis using big data sets, and a crypto-charity platform for donating computing power.

“I am more motivated than ever and ready to start my new journey in vehicle and medical device security,” he said.