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H2L Solutions Internship 2018

H2L Solutions, Inc., a HUBZone and Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), recently completed its first comprehensive internship program. H2L Solutions is headquartered in Huntsville, Alabama, and provides cybersecurity and information assurance services and support for government and commercial clients.

The dire state of cybersecurity in the United States is well-known—the lack of cyber-trained professionals, devastating cyberattacks, and increased adversary skillcraft all threaten businesses and individuals nationwide. During 2018 H2L Solutions implemented a unique way of preparing the future of American cybersecurity professionals. H2L established an internship program that provided real-world experience while promoting collaboration, innovation, and teamwork for degree-seeking cybersecurity students. This allowed participants to bridge the gap between the academic world and obstacles facing cyberspace today.

Interns: Daniel Stephens, Jasmyne Winfield, and Arinze Aginwa giving the pitch for their product Gatekeeper

Six interns participated in the 2018 program: Arinze Aginwa, Jasmyn Winfield, Peyton Guy, Daniel Stephens, Jonathan Wilson and Alissa Bukvic. The students, who are at various stages of their studies, came from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama A&M University, and Auburn University. Beginning in the summer, the program participants were divided into two groups and instructed to produce two self-guided projects for H2L Solutions with the overall goal of making a marketable product for the company. Similar to what employees experience in the professional world, the projects were team-based and relied on different skills from all members. All of the participants were given an overview of the company and its achievements along with the current market needs of the company’s customer base. They were taught about the foundations that exist in the technology world through governance, regulation, and compliance, and how those would affect the creation and implementation of cybersecurity.  One of the premises of the program was to allow a building of both technical skills, such as programming and operating system configuration, as well as non-technical skills. This also gave them the opportunity to create a tangible product to help them advance their careers.

One group created a product called The Gatekeeper, an inexpensive cybersecurity learning tool. This educational tool runs off of Raspberry Pi and a custom version of Raspbian OS and facilitates exploration into cyber wargames and basic terminal commands. The Gatekeeper is designed for the budding cyber professional and the cyber-curious. It also has the capability to host and run a virtual private network (VPN) allowing users to gain hands-on exclusive training.

 Interns Payton Guy, Jonathan Wilson and Alissa Bukvic prepping before their final presentation. 

The second internship group created a product called Threat Wizard, an enterprise disaster recovery platform. Not only does it provide monitoring, but it also trains users to detect incidents and escalate to the appropriate team members. It is a network deployed application and was designed with a user-friendly interface. The ultimate goal of the project for both teams was to create a product for H2L Solutions and, keeping the end goal in mind, a product that could already be targeting the existing Huntsville market for cybersecurity services.

Along with project development, the interns participated in events such as “Fun Fridays” where fun team-building experiences were offered such as laser tag, mini golf, and barbecues; as well as review sessions for CompTIA Security+, a certification that is often seen as the introductory, and often mandatory, certification in the cybersecurity arena. Interns were also given the opportunity to network and learn at educational events, such as the H2L/Wapack Labs Threat Symposium, and conferences, such as the National Cyber Summit and the Space & Missile Defense Symposium.

Sample from the supplementary textbook from Gatekeeper

Even though they were working hard completing their projects, it was still important to be able to share ideas and collaborate. While it was considered a competition with only one team winning and receiving a bonus, the two teams still shared ideas and skills freely.

Competitiveness can be a fantastic catalyst of innovation and creativity, especially in sectors where businesses bid for work against more than one direct competitor. 

One month after they first met their project teammates and together decided on a project path, they were required to present a status update to H2L leadership. It was important to review and allow current H2L employees the ability to offer their opinions on the progress of their concepts and give advice for the further development of the projects. 

After two months of hard work both groups presented their work to local business owners and business development professionals who provided feedback on the business plans and development. The three judges were Jonathan Hard, Raymond “Buzz” Toth, and Lang Sims. Both teams had 15 minutes to present in a “Shark Tank” style format, where the judges asked questions after the presentations and made the final decision on the internship program winner. Even though both teams were effective in developing and communicating their ideas and possessed great potential to fulfill the demands of the security industry, the Gatekeeper project was chosen as the winner for the competition and its team members were given a monetary bonus. It was selected as the winner because of the potential application of the Gatekeeper tool in the cybersecurity education market. After the dust settled, H2L’s CEO and President Jonathan Hard was interested in seeing the Gatekeeper concept more fully developed and allowed the group to continue to build on the original concept. They continued to use the same formula for success, hitting monthly deadlines and status reports.

Jasmyne Winfield expressed her eagerness to continue working on Gatekeeper. Daniel Stephens says he “enjoyed asking questions and picking the brains of professionals in the field. Everyone felt approachable and was very welcoming.” He also believes that his professionalism and research skills have improved.

Dashboard for the Threat Wizard Disaster Recovery Platform.

The H2L Solutions Internship Program was a success because it not only allowed the interns to create valuable content for H2L, but also gain invaluable experience in a fast-paced, professional environment. H2L is hoping to replicate the program in the following year to help give entry-level cyber professionals a leg up on their career aspirations.

Judges for the final pitch presentations Jonathan Hard, Lang Sims and Raymond “Buzz” Toth.