IST interns help protect against cyberattacks at Penn State

Students learn critical cybersecurity skills through internships in the Office of Information Security

College of Information Sciences and Technology students (left to right) Noah Bukowski, Brandon Carpenter and Anthony Siguenza are helping Penn State to protect its digital infrastructure, data and people through their summer internships with the University's Office of Information Security. Credit: Emma RiglinAll Rights Reserved.

Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of articles about students in the College of Information Sciences and Technology completing internships this summer.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — On an average day, Penn State – like many other organizations of similar size – repels millions of cyberattacks from around the world. This summer, three College of Information Sciences and Technology students are on the front lines in helping the University protect its digital infrastructure, data and people through their internships with Penn State’s Office of Information Security (OIS).

OIS was established in 2015 to help keep critical information secure by working to thwart the growing number of cyberthreats facing the University. The following year, the office launched an internship program, which annually attracts more than 120 applicants. Noah Bukowski (senior, security and risk analysis), Anthony Siguenza (senior, security and risk analysis) and Brandon Carpenter (sophomore, cybersecurity analytics and operations) were the three students selected as OIS interns this summer.  

“IST students have the exact skills that we are often looking for,” said Richard Sparrow, director of security operations at OIS. “They help us solve problems and contribute to projects either by leveraging their coding skills, performing data analysis, or helping out with daily operations.”

Three students from the College of Information Sciences and Technology are helping Penn State to protect its digital infrastructure, data and people through their summer internships with the University's Office of Information Security. From left to right are Anthony Siguenza, Noah Bukowski and Brandon Carpenter. Credit: Emma RiglinAll Rights Reserved.

Working with the OIS Security Operations team, the interns are gaining real-world experience, applying what they’ve learned in the classroom to their dynamic internship schedule that changes day to day. They work on various tasks, including processing University copyright infringements, analyzing data, contributing to consulting and architecture initiatives, managing projects, and analyzing phishing campaigns, all helping to protect the University's data.

“I chose this internship because it is a great opportunity to learn vital skills that are used to keep information protected on a large scale,” said Bukowski. “At a place like Penn State, the amount of data kept is surreal and the task of keeping it protected is not easy. Being able to say that I contributed to that is a rewarding experience all around.”

Siguenza added, “By working for the University, I see the importance of protecting key information and ensuring the services provided are always available. I feel that I have a much greater responsibility toward protecting the University and others now.”

For Carpenter, the internship is an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills he’s learned in the College of IST in a real-world setting, though he added that the internship experience has taught him much more about what the industry has to offer.

“The technology world is a vast environment that is never going to stop changing,” he said. “The classes that I have taken through the College of IST have given me the foundation to understand what everyone is talking about and why it is important. Even in the short time I’ve been [at OIS], my perspective has changed on just what this career field is."

While many Penn State students have the classroom knowledge to succeed in an OIS internship, it was the initiative of these three applicants that caught Sparrow’s eye.

“We really take notice of resumes that have their technical skills prominently displayed at the top,” he said. “We are always encouraged by students that have taken time to learn open source security tools.”

Siguenza knew that those credentials would not only help him in this internship, but also are what many corporations and agencies are seeking when recruiting cybersecurity professionals.

“I remember vividly how many recruiters at IST’s spring Future Forum career fair were interested in speaking to me when they saw I had two CompTIA certificates, the CySA+ and Security+ while being actively involved clubs such as the Competitive Cyber Security Organization,” he said.

The interns are further building their resumes at OIS this summer, working with some of the industry’s best tools in a large-scale environment alongside experienced information security engineers and analysts. But aside from enhancing their professional skills, they say that helping to keep Penn State’s information secure is personally rewarding.

“Being able to help the University by using the skills that I have learned here is an amazing way to give back for what the University has done for me,” concluded Bukowski. “It has been neat to see behind the scenes of all the hard work that goes in to helping keep the University safe.”

Last Updated January 22, 2020