Budding hackers help security experts think outside the box
In a room deep inside Vodaworld, the curtains are drawn against the day, while a group of young hackers get to grips with applications for information security,
The #SS17HACK, a Geekulcha initiative in association with ITWeb Events and Snode, is being run as part of the ITWeb Security Summit 2017.
Tiyani Nghonyama, COO of skills development at Geekchulcha, tells ITWeb that it was time to stop talking and actually do something.
"Hackathons are about helping young people to be innovative, while seeking solutions to serious societal challenges. The root cause of lack of ICT skills among the youth in this country is the lack of access to adequate IT resources which assist in skills development," Nghonyama says.
"Our government fails to realise that each programme it brings on board must be accompanied by the right skills set. In the long run, great projects fail because there are not enough ICT skills."
About 40 hackers, drawn from around the country, are sitting hunched at tables or lying on beanbags, coding away, while mentors and judges walk around the room.
One group, which calls themselves 'Nosleep' say they believe there's a lack of talent in the security space.
Yedidia Muk'mar (21) who is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, but is now with tech training institution WeThinkCode, says they were building a recruitment platform that would source security talent.
The plan, according to Muk'mar, is that companies will anonymously upload Docker images of their internal systems. "Hackers will have a go at those systems, and try and retrieve data. And then we'll have the recruitment process. A company can then recruit the talent for themselves, and they'll also know what preventive measures to take," he explains.
Another group of hackers call themselves Safetech and is building a solution for university students.
Spokesperson Claudio Manuel (22), with Geekculcha, tells ITWeb that most university students who dropped out in first or second year did so because of financial problems. "Our app would give them tips about what it's like at university. We're also going to use Twitter intelligence to check which universities have the highest dropout rate. People will also be able to tweet about what they face at university."
The winning team will be awarded R20 000, with the two runners up winning R10 000 and R5 000 respectively. Another prize, for the 'ultimate gig star', will give the winner a one-week internship at cybersecurity firm and event partner, Snode.
Manuel Corregedor, COO at Telspace Systems and one of the judges, says a security-focused hackathon is a great idea.
"A lot of people come out of varsity and they understand how to programme, but they haven't been exposed to the security side of things. It's about getting them to think of ideas and solutions to address problems we have in the information security field," he says.
There has been plenty of ideas coming out of the hackathon that those in the field seldom think about, says Corregedor. "When you work in security, you know how things should be done, but they're coming up with unconventional ideas. It makes you think outside the box."
While the hackers will be working around the clock, was he going to be on hand?
"Sure, but I'm definitely not sleeping here."