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Cybersecurity Institute Holds Inaugural Hackathon  

Faculty and students sitting at table while working together on a hackathon project.

The UMass Amherst Cybersecurity Institute held its inaugural hackathon on Friday, October 13, bringing together Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS) graduate students and faculty with cybersecurity industry professionals to focus on tools to make mobile apps safe for children.  

The hackathon's primary focus was on understanding what tools could help make mobile apps safe by design, with the goal of making progress on building a system that determines the appropriate age rating of an app based on the actual content shown to users-- as opposed to the intent of the app developer. Projects involved techniques for scraping content from apps and the web, labeling content, and machine learning classifiers that consider text and images against app store age rating criteria. 

Over 30 CICS graduate students were joined at the event by faculty, professional staff, and cybersecurity experts from Massachusetts-based companies MITRE and Pixel Forensics, including CICS alumni Andrew Merlino '85BS, Nick Merlino '18BS, '20MS, and Chaniel (Cheni) Chadowitz '13BS '15MS. MITRE is a non-profit operator of federally funded research and development centers based in Bedford, MA. Headquartered in Burlington, MA, Pixel Forensics develops solutions for large-scale image and video forensics. 

Led by CICS Professor Brian Levine, the Cybersecurity Institute is a multi-disciplinary home for security research and education at UMass Amherst. The driving mission of the institute is to advance Security for the Common Good. Affiliated researchers and educators lead projects and courses that help society, including increasing privacy, protecting personal information, thwarting the exploitation of the vulnerable, and increasing access to the Internet.  Working with partners in government, industry, and academia, the institute seeks to advance scientific and societal understanding of pressing issues in the field. The Hackathon was an event supported in part by the College's Scholarship for Service award, funded by the National Science Foundation

View photos from the event