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Bangor University students making the internet a safer place

A Bangor University student won the ‘Best Hack’ category at a hackathon at Southampton University recently.

Jamie Woodruff, 21, from Rishton, Lancashire a first year BSc Computer Information Systems student at the School of Computer Science was invited to attend the hackathon and won the Certified Penetration Expert prize. The prize is a course worth £1,000 which is sponsored by ITSE (IT Security Experts).

A hackathon is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development collaborate intensively on software projects. There are different types of hacking, the ethical kind, termed “white hat” and the unethical kind, “black hat”. Jamie is passionate about ethical hacking, which is what the hackathons are aimed at.

During the Southampton event, Jamie hacked Facebook enabling him to access user accounts, he then informed Facebook officials that this was possible. He also found vulnerabilities in the code of the web applications for Bloomberg and Twitter.

Jamie said: “I felt really excited and happy and couldn't wait to show the company how good my skills are. I have always said it just takes one person to give me a chance to show my true potential and ITSE gave me that chance. It will benefit me teaching people within our society to help them to learn how to protect themselves from black hats.”

Jamie is now busy setting up the Ethical Hacking Society at Bangor University which already has 50 members and over 600 likes on their Facebook page. The Society will be focussing on collecting Bounties, where companies pay ethical hackers to find weaknesses in their software code. The Society will be using the fees that they have earned to attend hackathons around the UK. They are sponsored by Core Security – a company with clients such as NASA and MasterCard and the School of Computer Science at Bangor.

The Society will be teaching their members basic to more advanced hacking, and all members are bound by an agreement and a code of ethics. They plan on arranging a hackathon at Bangor University’s School of Computer Science in the near future whilst also developing an idea to link all universities together in a virtual hackathon – something that has not been attempted before.

Ethical hackers like Jamie help make the internet safer and more secure by disclosing their findings to companies.

Publication date: 2 April 2014