Cybersecurity Weekend with Google

From March 9-10, Murat Abdullin, one of our students from our bilingual secondary school, was selected by Techspark Academy to participate in a cybersecurity weekend hosted at the Google headquarters in Switzerland.

02 April 2019

From March 9-10, Techspark Academy joined forces with Google Switzerland to give teens a two-day opportunity to immerse themselves into the world of hacking and information security. This workshop allowed students to learn the most important concepts in cybersecurity through games, puzzle-solving and computer coding. Murat Abdullin, a Russian student at our bilingual secondary school who joined us last September, was encouraged by his house parents to apply, which he did, and was then selected to participate. 

“Growing up, I was really into building – especially with LEGO,” recalls Murat. “I think my parents saw some potential in it and got me involved in a Robotics Club back in Russia. It was there that I learned about Ev3, also known as LEGO MINDSTORMS, which is a programmable robotics construction set that gives you the power to build, programme and command your own LEGO robots. You are basically able to make them do whatever you can imagine. I participated in competitions and would always place in the top three and I guess you can say that helped me ‘level up.’ The following years, we were able to work with newly updated software and programming and that’s when I got into Arduino. Arduino consists of both a physical programmable circuit board and a piece of software that allows you to write and upload computer code to the physical board. I was able to do everything with my hands and work with wires that made me feel as if I was working in a hardware workshop and I loved it. I then also got into Linux but I think you get the picture – programming and building have been a passion of mine since I was little and it just grew from there.” 

One of the main tasks that Murat really enjoyed over that weekend was competing in Google’s “Capture the Flag.” This beginner quest, cybersecurity game allows teens to detect and investigate cybersecurity threats and defend against hackers. Murat, in a team with four other students - one from Scotland, two from India and one from Germany - was confronted with a mess of old technologies, including Security (Op-Sec) and plenty of Internet of Things (IoT) devices that haven’t seen updates in decades and needed to find ways to update them – quickly.

“I tried to learn as much as possible and to remember my past experiences to use them in our tasks," said Murat. In general, hacking is fun for me because of how fast everything progresses. I mean if you look at cellphones now compared to 20 years ago, they have become much better. It’s the great thing with programming and hacking – you can do anything you want with it, it’s all up to your imagination.”

Techspark Academy aims to improve digital literacy in school children across Switzerland with the help of experienced ETH and EPFL instructors. They believe that early interaction with the latest technology is the best way to prepare children for their future and Murat echoes that belief.

“I really like math, physics, chemistry and computer science and believe future jobs will all be related to these subjects. I would like to study at ETH and become a scientist. There’s just so much you can do with technology and I want to be a part of that. For instance, let’s say someone doesn’t have their arm because it’s been amputated. You can then go to a doctor who can help give you a prosthetic arm or an artificial robotic arm that allows you to do the same things you were able to do before. That is really good because then it gives equality to people, they can be treated fairly, and you can help make their life easy again.”

As for any tips to future hackers and programmers, Murat gave this advice, “You have to take it easy. You won’t learn it fast because you have to retain all the knowledge you learned and build up from that, so you basically have to have zeal and aspirations. But just be patient and you will learn and you’ll see how fun it can be. At the end of the day, you are your only limit because it comes down to imagination – if you can think it, you can build it.” 

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