- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 9, 2014

INDIANA, Pa. (AP) - A junior student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania has started a hacking club that draws in both faculty and students.

Zach Garcia, 22, works as an information technology student in the basement of Weyandt Hall on campus. One day at work, he thought that people really needed to know how to guard themselves against the “bad hackers” on the Internet and decided to come up with his own group.

The Lunchtime Hackers is a group of people that get together to educate each other on malicious hackers and how to protect themselves from them.

He said “the need for awareness” is very important in today’s day and age with everything being digital, and this is something that professors do not really teach. A computer science major, he has examined the plight of many hacking victims, such as those left in the wake of the infamous Target incident earlier this year that affected 70 million customers.

The group meets once a week, usually on Fridays, and they practice how to identify malicious hackers through a computer simulation. The computer is not connected to the Internet and is completely safe. It’s a pretty eclectic group, Garcia said. At meetings you might see the dean of a college sitting next to a freshman.

“There’s a diverse group of people that come to the meetings, and I’ve found that we can learn from each other,” he said.

The group focuses on security issues such as creating a better password, installing the proper antivirus software and setting up a firewall, he said.

Garcia said that as a child, he enjoyed playing games on the computer but quickly learned how dangerous it can be for not only a child but anyone. He also said that he is “self-taught” and likes to make things safe for himself as well as everyone around him.

The help that Garcia gets from advisers, co-workers and his department made it possible to form the club and reach out to people on Facebook and through fliers on campus. He is hoping to finish his blog soon and to make a question-and-answer section where anyone can ask about computer issues and concerns.

Ultimately, Garcia said that his goal is to spread awareness about cybersecurity and to help as many people as possible. He said that with his passion for cybersecurity, he is “trying to do good in our community.”

In April, two groups of management information systems students from IUP took part in a state programming contest at California University of Pennsylvania and placed well.

Looking toward the future, Garcia said he would like to see the group recognized as an official club at IUP. And he would like to raise money for the Lunchtime Hackers to take trips and retreats to cybersecurity conferences in Pittsburgh.


Online: https://bit.ly/1qbV6PN


Information from: The Indiana Gazette, https://www.indianagazette.com

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