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Developing New Skills

February 11, 2022

Sascha Walker is learning marketable skills from his research project on fileless malware.
Sascha Walker is learning marketable skills from his research project on fileless malware.

DSU faculty in The Beacom College of Computer & Cyber Sciences tell students to “Know your offense so you can know your defense. They are two sides of the same coin.”

In addition to this good advice, DSU provides students with research resources to study questions they may have about topics related to offense or defense.

Sascha Walker took advantage of this opportunity after an assignment in an advanced forensics course sparked an interest to further delve into the topic, and he applied for a Student Research Initiative (SRI) grant to research “Fileless Malware: Lessening Indicators of Compromise.”

Research is often a new experience for students, and Walker discovered it was completely different than a class project.

With research, “there are more amounts of data to collect and analyze,” he said. He spent a lot of time collecting data, analyzing data using various analysis tools, and drawing points from the data.

He was surprised to learn that “interpretation is a big part of it, too,” he said. The SRI also includes a presentation on his research results at the Dakota State Research Symposium in March 2022. This scale of a presentation will also be a new experience, but he’s enjoying the process.

“It’s pretty fun, seeing all the data and all the work you put into it,” he said.

This experience is very practical for his career, and after he graduates with his BS in Cyber Operations in Fall 2022, he will be able to market himself as a malware analyst or researcher.

“Once I know how a malware author thinks, it will better help me as a malware analyst,” said Walker. “A lot of employers might look at this research experience as a bonus.”

His faculty mentor for this project is Dr. Bramwell Brizendine, Assistant Professor of Computer & Cyber Sciences.

“This sort of research can allow Sascha to better understand some of the techniques embraced by malware authors,” Brizendine said. “This makes him much more capable of recognizing and understanding the nuances of malicious code he may encounter.”

Walker’s extra-curricular experience could be advantageous as well. A native of Estelline, SD, he is interested in working in other parts of the world, such as Germany. His experience as co-founder and President of the World Languages Club will help this, as he keeps up with German, and a little Russian and Korean.

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