Summary of the Winter Semester

aka Why I have been absent on my blog

Posted by Jessica Wilson on 2016-05-31

It has been far too long since the last post I've made. I've kept myself quite busy this semester. I took 4 classes: Embedded Systems, Malware Analysis and Reverse Engineering, Windows Administration and Art 101. Yeah, okay, so Art didn't keep me crazy busy, but the rest sure did. I also organized a conference (YOLOcon for the win!) as well as spoke at it. I organized the practice for the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition and the Information Security Talent Search for two teams each, and competed in both competitions. I founded the Women in IA group at EMU and organized 4 meetings. I attended the Women in Cyber Security Conference in Dallas Tx. Lastly, I worked 3 days a week at Virta Labs as an intern.

Now that I listed out everything I did last semester, I feel less bad about not completing any blog posts. Below I'll go into a bit more detail about some of my adventures.

All dem classes

This semester I had two incredibly intense classes, Malware Analysis and Reverse Engineering and Embedded systems. Both pushed the limits of my knowledge, and forced me to learn more about lower level languages than I expected. In hindsight, I am incredibly grateful I took the classes together, and they actually complemented each other quite nicely. I was also glad I balanced those two difficult classes with two simpler classes, Art and Windows Administration.

Embedded Systems was a class dedicated to teaching us how to program a microcontroller and its various peripherals. Some of those include LEDs, input buttons,an LCD screen, and a temperature sensor. In this class I was able to expand my knowledge in C programming as well as a smidge of assembly. I was also taught how to read datasheets and circuit diagrams. For our final project we had to use all the different areas on the board we learned and create a project for it. I decided to create a reaction based game. It sets the LEDs on the board to blink at a specified rate, and requires the player to press a particular button when the last LED in the row is lit. It then increases the speed of the blinks, and increases the score. Lastly, it stores the high score in EEPROM so everyone can try for the highest score. Overall, despite it being incredibly challenging, it was also a great learning experience for me. It reaffirmed why I chose to pick up a minor.

In Malware Analysis and Reverse Engineering, I was able to learn different techniques to find out what a file may contain, as well as different routines to perform dynamic analysis. Lastly, we learned how to disassemble binaries to examine the code the hold.

My Windows Administration class was an introduction to basic Windows Server administration. In this class, we set up Active Directory and DHCP as well as how to manage users, groups and OUs. We dived into Group Policy and file services as well.


YOLOCon was one of my greatest accomplishments this semester. The Information Assurance Student Association decided we needed to host our own conference, as well as fund raise to enable us to be self sufficient. We accomplished this by reaching out to local businesses and asking them to sponsor our first student driven conference. We spent any of our free time planning which talks to host, scheduling, and reaching out to all students in our major to participate. In the end we managed to procure 5 sponsors, as well as host 15 different talks. I look forward to organizing another next year!


Another point of pride for me last semester was the fact we sent two teams to both the Information Security Talent Search and the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. For each, our student organization practiced weekly from November until March. I personally orchestrated the CCDC practice, and helped plan the ISTS practice. We were able encourage over 16 students to participate in these competitions, as well as take home a third place trophy at CCDC.

Women in Cyber Security Conference

In between competitions and YOLOCon, I had the honor of receiving a scholarship to attend the 3rd annual Women in Cyber Security Conference. This conference lasted 3 days at the end of March in Dallas, TX. It was a great opportunity to meet other very successful women in the field. It was absolutely inspiring to chat with each of them. I feel as if I made some great connections while I was there. One of the most surprising facts was how many people I met that lived in Michigan, many of which had graduated out of the same program I am in now! While I was there, I was also able to attend an exploit development workshop. I was able to practice developing exploits, and was able to understand buffer overflows to a greater extent I was also able to compete in my first full CTF. Facebook held their own on their new platform. It was a lot of fun to focus on something so technical for the end of the conference.