They’ve got the keys to making your phone or computer an encryption castle.
The Open Web Application Security Project, an international organization that works to improve software security, launched a Brooklyn chapter late last year. One of the local organizers said it is important to have a Kings County group, since so many independent software companies have offices here.
“The smaller companies may not be so security conscious,” said Israel Bryski, whose day job is on the technology security team of an investment bank. “Or they don’t have the funding and expertise needed to make their software secure.”
The cyber security group tries to make secure software accessible so that even tiny startups incorporate policies and practices that insure their data remains safe. It hosts conferences, lectures, and training sessions to raise awareness and help solve problems through experienced volunteers. The group provides information on ever-evolving security practices and vulnerabilities that can be difficult for developers to stay on top of on their own, said Bev Corwin, another organizer.
“It takes a lot of work to keep up with it,” she said.
Bryski said that as more software is designed to be accessed over the internet, developers could be inadvertently creating entry points that allow hackers to steal information.
“If they’re not built properly, it’s easy to reach right through the software and get to the data on the back end,” he said.
The risks are enormous, Corwin said.
“It’s beyond comprehension. It’s a huge problem,” she said. “OWASP is at the front lines of that.”
She added that many universities do a poor job of teaching graduates about how to make safe software, saying her group aims to fill the void between reality and academia.
“It’s sad and it’s shocking, but it’s true,” she said. “This is a bridge between industry and education.”
Volunteers and guest speakers for the group generally fall into three categories: builders, defenders, and breakers. Builders design the basic software, defenders implement security measures, and breakers uncover vulnerabilities by trying to hack into the system. There is a lot of overlap, said Bryski, who considers himself a defender.
“We try to think like a bad guy, and figure out how they would break in,” he said. “Then we block the holes we find.”
The international group has 42,000 participants and has been around for 14 years, according to its website. The size of the New York City chapter, which has more than 1,800 members, led organizers to start founding offshoot chapters including the new Brooklyn one. After only three meetings the group has signed up 155 members. One of the chapter leaders speculates that the interest has a lot to do with the borough’s collaborative spirit.
“The culture itself helps a lot,” said Donald Gooden. “There’s a willingness to come together, and to put in the time.”
The second annual Brooklyn Tech Triangle U took place this week, highlighting the tech ecosystem connecting Downtown, Dumbo, and the Navy Yard. All of the local universities participated, along with a bunch of area companies. If you missed out on the in-real-life festivities, some of the panel discussions are being posted to Vimeo. Check out the keynote, a talk about companies that use new tools to improve on old-school industries, featuring speakers from New Lab, Gilt, The Awl, and Amplify.
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In case you missed it, the developers behind the revitalization of Sunset Park’s Industry City announced a $1 billion overhaul of the 16-building waterfront facility. They are hoping to turn the manufacturing hub into a tech center including design, engineering, manufacturing, and retail space. But the whole deal hinges on a decidedly low-tech problem: parking.
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Your noble correspondent wrote about John Dewey’s robotics team last week. The after-school program, which makes bigger, more complicated bots, is heading to the distant island of Manhattan this week for the First Regional Robotics Championship. Brooklyn Technical High School’s team is also going. Last year Brooklyn Tech made it to the world championship.