Jesse Buonanno, a fifth-year student graduating with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in computing security, plans to give back to his country the best way he knows how—by enhancing U.S. cybersecurity.
As a part of the CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service program, Buonanno received a scholarship covering the costs of his final two years at RIT. In exchange, students in the program agree to work at a government computing security job for the same number of years that they received the scholarship.
“I had already planned on working in the government because they are on the cutting edge of cyber space,” said Buonanno, who is from Medford, N.Y. “It may not seem like it at times, because securing government services is incredibly hard, but you get to work on projects that no one else in the world has access or authority to.”
After graduating in May, Buonanno will begin as a cybersecurity engineer with MITRE Corp., a not-for-profit company that operates multiple federally funded research and development centers, in McLean, Va. He got the job after meeting with representatives at an RIT career fair and completing two co-op experiences with the company.
At MITRE, Buonanno will help build security solution proof of concepts for problems proposed by agencies, such as the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency. He’ll also maintain an infrastructure for the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures project—or CVE list.
“CVE applies to the threat intelligence portion of computing security and acts as a means to aggregate and categorize vulnerabilities and exposures in all sorts of products,” Buonanno said. “This way, system administrators can see what versions of a product are vulnerable and to what degree.”
"I'm beyond grateful for the opportunities that were given to me by this nation, throughout my life, for me to get to where I am today," he added.
Buonanno said he first got interested in computers because he didn’t have any gaming consoles as a kid. He also began learning about programming when he joined FIRST Robotics in high school.
“I’ve always been very competitive, and computing security has an adversarial component that never ceases to amaze me, as competition drives innovation,” said Buonanno. “The amount of creativity and finesse that goes into subverting and designing security systems could qualify as art.”
In 2014, RIT received a nearly $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to become a part of the federal CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service program, which can provide full tuition and a stipend in exchange for future government service. The program was established in 2000 in response to ongoing threats to the nation’s information technology infrastructure. It serves as a deal for students and gives government agencies an exclusive talent pool from which to recruit.
In 2012, RIT broke the mold of traditional cybersecurity education by creating the Department of Computing Security, the first academic department with both undergraduate and graduate degrees devoted solely to computing security. Today, RIT is helping to fill a national need for qualified computing security professionals as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cybersecurity Education designated by National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.