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Central Washington University

CWU Computer Science students mastering latest in data security

Bob Rapp with his student interns in the CWU SkunkworksPreventing tampering with sensitive data is the challenge facing security experts worldwide. Because of that, cybersecurity is an area of rapid employment growth.

 

Central Washington University students are getting rare hands-on training with the encrypted-database technology “blockchain.” It’s happening through a new university partnership with the global technology firm the Compliant Cloud, and its proprietary platform QuodCrypt.

 

Bob Rapp, the company’s co-founder and chief product officer, has established an internship program involving five senior CWU computer science students. They are now developing a new public safety video application, using QuodCrypt, specifically for the iPhone.

 

“We started with video because we’ve found that it is a very high-value type of data,” Rapp explained. “There’s a lot of personal-protection value to video. People rely on it globally and courts appreciate the chance to review that type of evidence. But what courts don’t know is how easily video can be hacked.”

 

Senior Chris Martin, from Ellensburg, is working on the user interface component of the new app, which is now in the proof-of-concept stage, “making it look nice and be easily usable,” he said. “The ease of use of recording, and knowing that their video will not be able to be tampered with, will be what’s key to making sure people will want to keep using it.”

 

QuodCrypt is a cloud-based solution allowing for confirmation that a video is not altered or—at a minimum—indicates when it was revised. The blockchain security protocol it uses first came to general prominence as a way to secure cryptocurrency transactions, like Bitcoin.

 

“It is a very common topic among those involved in this type of [security] technology,” Rapp acknowledged. “But it’s still pretty new and generally not deployed in production around the world yet. You’ll start to see [data] verification this way within the next two or three years.”

 

Rapp, who moved to Ellensburg several years ago, approached CWU President James L. Gaudino and Vice President of Operations Andreas Bohman about the possibility of collaborating with the university on cybersecurity and blockchain.

 

“And, also, on how we could enhance the curriculum that Central students are already taking,” Rapp recalled. “Dr. Gaudino and Andreas, specifically, said they were interested in developing this partnership. The university provides us with office space and we offer the chance for students to partner with us in this start-up business. It’s great and we hope to bring other companies in.”

 

Bohman said he’s excited about the relationship and looks forward to a long partnership with the Compliant Cloud, and the opportunities it offers university students to collaborate with a company that he called “an up-and-coming leader in the cybersecurity space.”

 

“This also aligns with our internal efforts related to bringing emergent technologies, such as blockchain, to our campus,” Bohman pointed out. “The app being developed through CWU flips the narrative in terms of video protection capability.”

 

Rapp, who previously was a senior leader for cloud-based businesses at Microsoft, VMware and IBM, agreed.

 

“If you think about it, if you’re driving around central Washington, or in downtown Seattle, today you will probably be filmed by hundreds of cameras,” he added. “But none of those are for your benefit; they’re for other people. So, how do you present your point of view? We think that really matters.”

 

Rapp went on to say the decision to pursue collaboration with CWU was easy since, “In Washington, Central is a leader in getting students up-to-speed on cybersecurity. Great students are needed around the world for these type jobs. Companies around the world are lining up to hire people with these kinds of talents.”

 

Senior Parker Jones, from Seattle, is another one of the Central students involved in the project.

 

“Learning about blockchain is especially important in my field of interest,” he said. “It’s almost a guarantee that, when the time comes for me to find a job, it will involve blockchain. So, getting work experience and credibility through this project will allow me to confidently apply for different positions.”

 

Rapp is also working with other universities around the world, such as Oxford, Cambridge, and Beijing Normal, which he described as the “Stanford of China” along with potential clients for the CWU app in Amsterdam, Berlin, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Sydney.

 

Ultimately, Central students may get the chance to accompany Rapp or another team member on business consulting trips, which are not typical for computer science students to do.

 

“With internet and smart people, technology can be anywhere,” Rapp said. “It’s delightful that it’s here in Ellensburg because it’s a great place. I’m excited to be here.”

 

Photo: Bob Rapp (top right) with his student interns in the CWU Skunkworks.

 

Media contact: Robert Lowery, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-1487, Robert.Lowery@cwu.edu

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

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