Testimony from Nick Van Haver – looking back on my internship at NVISO

Hi, my name is Nick Van Haver and I am a master student in computer sciences at the University of Ghent and I have just finished a one month internship at NVISO. In this post I want to reflect a bit on my 6 weeks of internship! Why NVISO? Actually I stumbled upon NVISO while hunting for a thesis subject. I was looking for a thesis in the field of information security. NVISO was the only company offering theses in this field. When I met with Daan Raman of NVISO to discuss the thesis, he also offered me an internship position. It seemed to be a golden opportunity, and I accepted. In hindsight, it really was a golden opportunity! I had plenty (but not too much ;)) work. The jobs were always different and challenging. And above all I learned a ton. At first, each job that was assigned to me seemed more than I could handle. Either I had never worked with the required technology or the job was required a lot of research. When actually getting into the job, I needed nearly all skills I acquired during my education: programming in Java, C++, JavaScript, Linux command-line, working with virtual machines etc but also planning and reporting. It was a real confidence boost to find out that I am capable of coming up with solutions to complex problems! Specific jobs The first day on the job I was assigned to set up a system to get a research system up and running that is used to analyze data linked to malware samples. The resulting virtual machine is now being used in NVISO’s lab environment. I did not have a lot of problems but I was astonished about how much different skills I needed to accomplish the job. When doing labs or exercises back at the university, you only use a few skills and technologies at the time, but here you need to open all registers. It is also very nice to know that your work will actually be used to help the company, unlike with exercises or labs. Next up was the challenges for this year’s edition of BruCON. I got to develop an interface for a real ATM (cash machine)! This project was a bit harder for two reasons. Firstly, I needed a lot more creativity. Secondly documentation on the internals of an actual ATM are not that easy to get. Fortunately, Erik was able to point me to the developers guides of the ATM, which he had also used before in his own research. After having completed my work for BruCON, I got to work on Taintdroid. Taintdroid is a real-time privacy monitoring environment that analyzes smartphone applications in order to discover privacy violations, such as disclosing the IMEI number of the device. My task here was to set up a working build environment for Taintdroid in a Unix environment. And my last and most extensive work was the development of a web application using Apache Struts2 and Hibernate. As I am quite new to Struts2 and Hibernate, I had a lot of research and quick learning to do. This was both a curse and a blessing as it made the job more difficult but at the same time proved to myself that I can do it. Why Security? Security is one of the most essential fields of expertise within computer sciences. However it is also the one which I have dealt with the least during my career at the university of Ghent. We got to see some best practices but the focus was never on security. Every now and then the news reports a new virus or black-hat hacker raising online havoc. Vast amounts of private and confidential data find their way into malicious hands on a daily basis. The only way to create a future where data can be called safe is to educate programmers. Myself having specialized in programming languages for years, I decided that I need to educate myself in this field. Conclusion So what do I carry with me after my internship at NVISO? A big bag of knowledge, a huge confidence boost and a unique experience. Now I am able to say with confidence that I am capable of functioning in a business. I would recommend doing an internship at NVISO to anyone who is interested in security. It is really worth the time!

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