NDSU Hack Club kicks off first meeting of semester

Cybersecurity training in demand across workplace, rate at which people gaining necessary skills falling short

Did you know that roughly 30,000 cites were hacked daily in 2021? Or that every 39 seconds, there is a new attack somewhere on the web?

According to techjury, it has become an issue that “eats deep into the very foundation of a business, crashing the party and costing millions and even billions of dollars in the process.”

Usual steps cyber criminals take to breach a company or personal system may be a lot simpler than one would think. First, they need to find out as much information as possible about the person or business and their computer system, then identify a weakness and use that weakness to exploit the vulnerability of the person or business and get into their system.

But, hacking isn’t all bad. Learning different code and the importance of cybersecurity to combat cybercriminals is an important skill to have in the workplace.

In fact, according to a Harvard Extension School report, learning cybersecurity is so needed that the demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals is growing faster than the rate at which people are gaining the necessary skills.

That is why the NDSU Cybersecurity Student Association, or Hack Club, has been an organization at the university since fall 2017.

“Cybersecurity is still a relatively new field, and as such college programs that teach cybersecurity and teach it well are relatively few and far between,” said Jack Hance, one of the four officers of Hack Club. “NDSU itself has a cybersecurity degree program but it’s still in its infancy.”

Hance says the club looks to create a space in which students can learn and teach each other cybersecurity skills without relying on NDSU’s cybersecurity program to get them up to speed.

“There is a lot of practical experience in cybersecurity that comes from just playing and working with computers that can’t be taught well in a classroom setting, through hands-on meeting activities led by other students, we look to supply students with these exact skills,” Hance said.

The CSA has speakers from the industry come in and talk about their experience in the cybersecurity field. Outside of club activities, employers really like to see the CSA on resumes, as it shows that students are willing to dedicate time outside of the classroom to learn new technical skills.

“We have these speakers come in in hopes of showing students what sort of things they can expect once they begin their journey into corporate cyber.” said Hance. “I thought I may be a bit biased; I can confidently say that being very involved with Hack Club is the single best thing you can do to start a cyber career at NDSU.”

The club had their first meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 26. There, club members took the newcomers through the club favorite, Intro to Lock Picking. The officers report that they will provide food and drinks for people to snack on while trying to “pop locks.”

“We will have a short presentation at the start to give students the basics of how lock picking works, and then the rest of the meeting will be dedicated to trying it themselves, hands on, with the rather large collection of locks and lock picks that the club owns and that students bring in,” Hance said.

The club welcomes all skill levels and encourages students to try even if they don’t come from a technical background. Hance says much like many other technical disciplines, cybersecurity is not an easy field, and starting out can be frustrating.

“At Hack Club we try to flatten the skill curve a bit by encouraging an environment that allows for asking questions and getting advice, as everyone here was a beginner at some point and we all know how it feels when someone shames you for asking a question that seems obvious to them but is totally unknown to you,” said Hance. “Oftentimes, the best hackers actually come from a discipline that has nothing to do with computers, since hacking, in large part, is about thinking outside the box and pulling knowledge from obscure places to solve problems.”

Normal meetings for the club are pretty laid back, but the environment tends to get pretty amped up during competitions. “We are very aware how much computer science students enjoy caffeine, so we usually get a few cases of energy drinks for competitions, and that tends to get everyone going.

Students who are interested in joining Hack Club can visit the clubs website at https://ndhack.club and officers Jack Hance, Cayden Schmandt, Cameron Kolodjski and Devin Gluesing are open to questions either via email or Discord DM.

“If you are interested in learning how to hack, and are willing (or maybe even enjoy) to bang your head against some difficult problems for a while, then cybersecurity is a great field for you,” Hance said.

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