Staying smarter than IoT devices

October 2, 2018

Face recognition gets you into your phone. Voice activation turns on your lights. Finger scans unlock your devices. We live in an era where we are inundated by methods keeping us connected via the Internet of Things (IoT). The future is smart, but are we? How are these smoke detectors, toaster ovens and wind turbines staying secure? The students at California State University, Chico are one step ahead of the crowd in IoT street smarts thanks to David Zeichick’s Innovation in Cybersecurity Education.

How smart is that?

In David’s classroom, his students design their own IoT device and then analyze the security implications of their design.

How exactly?

Students use a Raspberry Pi and motion sensor to create the device. They then write a program on the Pi that sends a text alert whenever the motion sensor is triggered. They implement this functionality by interfacing with an external third-party website that generates a text, which is a typical communications architecture used by IoT devices.

What else?

Students also operate a personal mini router to learn about network traffic. They first use the tool on their router to monitor traffic generated by their Raspberry Pi. After they establish the normal traffic baseline, they write their own program in Python to create an alert whenever their Pi deviated from the established norm, indicating anomalous traffic.


Fantastic. By infusing real-world security problems into what students actively use and having them engage in finding solutions, a better mastery of and interest in the subject matter is established! It’s relatable, students love it and others can easily implement it into their courses.

California State University, Chico was awarded the winning submission for Lab Activity in the 2018 National CyberWatch Center’s Innovations in Cybersecurity Education Award. This innovation and others like it can be accessed through the National CyberWatch Center’s member portal HERE. Academic memberships are FREE, and other memberships are available HERE.