Reflections from a Scholar: Fadi Farag



After climbing up the uniquely shaped entrance, I went through metal detectors and passed by guards. After security permitted me to enter the conference room, I was greeted with a generous goodie bag filled with pens, mugs, a lanyard, a stress ball, a notepad, and even mousepads. I took my seat. While we awaited Mr. Geraghty to start the program, we began conversing with each other. Mr. Michael Geraghty, the director of the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Information Cell (NJCCIC), introduced the organization (pronounced as “NJ Kick”) and its responsibilities to protecting New Jersey.


Following Mr. Geraghty, Kevin McKenzie, the NJCCIC’s cyber defense specialist, explained his background as a former intern for the NJCCIC. Now as a full-time employee, Mr. McKenzie discussed the concept of EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response) and telemetry. To accompany his explanations, Mr. McKenzie displayed the NJCCIC’s real-time statistics and showed us the platform that the NJCCIC used. Like Mr. McKenzie, Jessica Reiszel was another cyber defense specialist at the organization. She discussed many other applications, platforms, and tools the NJCCIC used.


Before she worked at the NJCCIC, Krista Valenzuela, a senior cyber threat intelligence analyst, worked at the federal level. She discussed IOC analysis and how the NJCCIC identifies situations where it is compromised. Interestingly, she mentioned public relations and information. When prompted with the term “cybersecurity”, we often imagine the technical aspects of the career, neglecting the fact that cybersecurity incidents and research must be reported to the public and presented to officials.


Joseph Russo, the NJCCIC bureau chief, followed in the theme of discussing cybersecurity protocols, technologies, and platforms. Mr. Russo placed extra emphasis on web traffic analysis. Mandy Galante provides the NJCCIC’s cybersecurity training and education services. She has a diverse background from working on Wall Street to working as a teacher to becoming a cybersecurity trainer. Mrs. Galante provided many resources toward certification and encouraged participation in competitions such as CyberPatriot and CyberStart America.


The event was tied off nicely with a tour of the ROIC (Regional Operations and Intelligence Center) and state data center. I am grateful that NJCCIC and all its representatives took the precious time out of their busy schedules to host us.


Written by Fadi Farag

2021-2022 Governor's STEM Scholar


Fadi Farag is a junior at Steinert High School with a passion for computer science. He is currently one of the lead programmers of his school’s robotics team. Fadi has programmed many Android applications, desktop programs, and websites. He is also the founder of EuclidOS, an open-source operating system for graphing calculators that he hopes will pave the way for cheaper calculators. Fadi hopes to further develop EuclidOS to a professional grade. Outside of computer science, Fadi likes to create electronics and PCBs. He plans to conduct research in the field of computer science and cybersecurity. He also hopes to pursue ethical hacking and software engineering to create businesses and jobs while keeping companies secure.