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Cyber Corps program trains spies for the digital age

At the University of Tulsa school, students learn to write computer viruses, hack digital networks and mine data from broken cellphones. Many graduates head to the CIA or NSA.

November 22, 2012|By Ken Dilanian, Washington Bureau

One former student, Philip McAllister, worked after graduation at the Naval Research Laboratory, which does scientific research and development for the Navy and Marines. He later moved to San Francisco and worked at several startup companies before he joined Instagram, which developed a photo-sharing mobile application, early this year. Facebook purchased Instagram, which had only 13 employees, for $1 billion three months later.

"Sujeet gets incredibly talented people," said Richard "Dickie" George, who retired last year after a three-decade career at the NSA.

Shenoi speaks proudly of students who pushed the boundaries or broke the rules.

One, who now works at the NSA, hacked the school's computer system and created a fake university ID to impersonate his cyber-stalking target, for example. Another spoofed a professor's email account to fool his target into spilling details. As part of a vulnerability study, one student sneaked into a Tulsa water system facility and stole blueprints that a more malign attacker could use to wreak havoc.

A few years ago, Shenoi says, a group of students rummaged through trash bins outside offices on campus and obtained confidential information about football recruits, professors' salaries, and major financial donors.

"We are now banned from Dumpster diving on campus," he said with a smile.

ken.dilanian@latimes.com

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