Programming with Java

Our students started programming with Java! Today we are having the first lesson of a four-week course. The focus is on encapsulation.

What is “encapsulation”?

Like the name suggests, encapsulation is the storing of data within a single unit. Imagine that this data exists within a pill capsule. The purpose of the capsule is to protect what is inside it (data) from outside code. Encapsulation is a way of hiding the data of a class from other classes.

Why Learn Java?

Java is one of the best programming languages to learn in terms of increasing your attractiveness to employers in the tech field. Java is also usually good for beginners because it is a statistically- typed language, which means that your code will be checked for errors, which is very useful for people just starting out. The community of people who know Java is also large, so there are a lot of resources on the subject if our students ever need extra help outside the classroom.


Sources: Encapsulation in JavaWhy Learn Java?

Launching the CyberHeroes Project!

A week in the Netherlands lies ahead this spring for a handful of Cultivating Coders graduates, thanks to an extraordinary collaborative effort between organizations and support from the U.S. Embassy there. Side-by-side with young programmers from the Netherlands, the visiting coders will take on hacker battles, work on CSI-type cyber challenges with local police, study the history of cryptography, and learn to fight cybercrime alongside international hackers. Sightseeing and touring in Rotterdam, and its surrounding areas, is also written into the program agenda, including a patrol boat adventure in the Rotterdam harbor, Europe’s largest port. 

 In 2017, Anouk Vos, Chairman for Cyberworkspace, was invited to the United States to promote “ethical hacking” and her program to teach it: take young hackers and equip them with state-of-the-art coding skills-  that no traditional school provides-  then plug program graduates in with government agencies and private enterprises to boost those organizations’ cyber security.  

 During that visit, Ms. Vos met Charles Ashley III, the President of Cultivating Coders, which is a mobile coding camp serving the United States. It offers eight-week intensive boot camp-style courses to high school aged students who typically don’t have access to this type of education because of limited resources or geographic isolation. From this initial meeting, a unique partnership was born; now, both programs are selecting students to attend the CyberHeroes event in Rotterdam. 

 “I am beyond enthusiastic about this collaboration,” said Ms. Vos. “Ethical hacking skills are extremely important to cope with current security threats. I feel that by bringing our communities together we are starting a trailblazing 21st Century workforce.” 

 According to Mr. Ashley, to call this opportunity ‘amazing’ would be an understatement. “Our goal has always been to expose young people to the endless possibilities one could experience in life. This trip is a great springboard to that for our graduates,” he said. 

 Cultivating Coders brings computer coding curriculum and hands-on training to rural, tribal, and inner-city areas where resources for technical training or computer science education are not currently available. The program focuses on providing web application development fundamentals and coding education for high school students aged 13-18, young adults aged 18-29 and is designed to optimize graduates’ further educational opportunities and employability.

Making Cyberworkplace Smart and Hacking it!

Cyberworkplace is launching an exciting new project designed to test the security of smart devices that are becoming more and more ubiquitous in homes across the globe: Google Home/Alexa, smart light switches, alarm systems, motion sensors, and so on. These “smart” systems are typically linked to the internet and often interact with each other. These devices are often incredibly convenient and not to mention fashionable. Unfortunately, however, whether or not these devices are secure is often an afterthought.

Fibaro system smart devices

The project will be undertaken under the guidance of Maarten Van Duivenbode of Duivenbode ICT over the span of three weeks. Students will be installing various smart devices in the Cyberworkplace basement and then attempting to hack into them. The final results of the project will be presented on Friday February 8th. Although this project is fun and light-hearted on the surface, it has the intention of uncovering unfortunate truths about the potentially unsafe devices many of us are so eagerly introducing into our homes.

Press release in Dutch:

Jongeren van de Rotterdamse Cyberworkplace hacken een slim huis!

De hackers van de Cyberworkplace aan de Schiedamse Vest gaan de komende drie weken aan de slag  met een bijzonder project: hack een slim huis! In samenwerking met Maarten Van Duivenbode van Duivenbode ICT duiken ze in de wereld van slimme apparaten zoals thermostaten, slimme schakelaar ,bewegingssensoren , alarmsystemen. Tal van aan het internet gekoppelde producten worden in een aantal dagen geïnstalleerd en aan elkaar verbonden. Waarom??? Om de beveiliging van deze veelgebruikte producten eens goed te testen.

Anouk Vos, voorzitter van de Cyberworkplace, vindt het een belangrijk experiment. “Men schat dat tegen 2020 ongeveer 75 miljard “dingen” online zijn. Onze jongeren bouwen in de Cyberworkplace met deze dingen het huis van de (nabije) toekomst om de Internet of Things -ontwikkeling eens tegen het licht te houden. Is het mogelijk om slimme stopcontacten aan bewegingssensoren en slimme  keukengadgets te koppelen en te manipuleren? We zullen het zien!”

Het project begint op vrijdag 25 januari. Op vrijdag 8 februari wordt het eindresultaat getoond. De jongeren hebben er zin in. Projectmanager van de Cyberworkplace Nasya Handzhiyska heeft hoge verwachtingen: “We gaan een huishouden robotiseren om er vervolgens een 21 e -eeuws spookhuis  van te maken. Toeters, bellen en heel veel enge hacks…can’t wait!”

Presentations on Crisis Management and OT Security

How do crisis management and business continuity relate to cybersecurity? Iowa Carels answered this question in her interactive lecture where our students got to create their own crisis management exercises.

Business continuity focuses on preparatory planning with the aim of ensuring that the most important aspects of their business will continue to function in spite of a calamity. It also focuses on the recovery of a business, including its less important aspects, if a crisis were to occur.

Business crisis management encapsulates business continuity within it, but is much broader. Business crisis management starts before the process of business continuity and continues long after. It involves actions such as identifying risks and addressing them before they have the ability to turn into a crisis.

As cyber attacks on companies (such as DDoS attacks) are becoming increasingly common, all businesses must now be prepared to face a cybersecurity crisis if or, maybe better said, when it happens.

In the afternoon, Ilya Tillekens from Hudson Cybertec gave another lecture on OT Security, presenting very interesting real-life examples.

OT stands for “Operational Technology”, and is distinct from IT, or “Informational Technology”. OT monitors and controls the functioning of real-world, physical devices. OT is often used to regulate industrial systems. Traditionally, OT systems are not connected to internet networks, which is predominately what makes them distinct from IT systems. Now, however, with an increasing number of devices becoming “smart”, a convergence between IT/OT devices is rapidly occurring. For instance, coffee-makers use to consist strictly OT technology, but now that they are being connected to the internet so they can be operated from a remote distance via someone’s cellphone, this represents OT/IT convergence.

OT security systems play a role in ensuring that critical infrastructure such as power stations, dams, and public transport function. Thus, making sure they are safe from tampering is essential.

Sources: Business Continuity Trends Versus Crisis ManagementWhat is OT Security?

Lecture on Blockchains

Today Gerard L.A. Persoon gave a lecture on how  Blockchains works and what you can do with them.

What is a blockchain? 

A blockchain is, as the name implies, a chain of digital “blocks” of data. A block is composed of three parts:

  1. Data: Different types of blockchains store different types of data. For instance, a Bitcoin blockchain stores details about financial transactions
  2. Hash: each block has a unique hash. A hash is a unique identifier for each block, sort of like a fingerprint.  When the data inside a block changes,  a new block is created, as is a new hash.
  3. Hash of the previous block: this is why these blocks are described as being in a “chain”; because every block is “chained” to the previous block.  The only block that does not have this element is the first block in a chain, as there is no previous block to refer to.

The fact that blocks of data are stored in a “chain” is partially what makes them harder to hack into than other forms of data storage.  This is because if you tamper with one block (thus changing its data and its hash), all the subsequent blocks become invalid because they contain the hash of the previous, untampered block. This means a hacker will probably be caught if they attempt to tamper with data in a blockchain. Although new hashes for the subsequent blocks could be created to unlock the data in the subsequent blocks so a hacker could avoid being detected, this process is purposefully made very slow by what is called the “proof of work” mechanism.

Sources: How does a blockchain work– Simply ExplainedBlockchain security: What keeps your transaction data safe?