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Leahy Center Student Showcase: Liam DiFalco

Introduction to the Leahy Center Student Showcase

The Leahy Center for Digital Forensics & Cybersecurity employs students from a wide array of different states, backgrounds, and skillsets. Through this diversity, we can constantly challenge our status quo and stay at the cutting edge of forensic research. Above this, however, we are able to build a fantastic, inclusive community, one that allows anyone to foster their love for digital forensics and cybersecurity into workable skills and make meaningful connections in the workplace. We would like to shine a spotlight on those who help make the Leahy Center the place it is. The student interns that work at the Leahy Center are not only learning the skills they need for a future in digital forensics, but also contribute fresh perspectives and work to make the Leahy Center a lively place.

Our first student is Liam DiFalco, a high school student from Burlington High School. Working with college students and trained professionals is intimidating, so we took a look into how Liam interacts with the Leahy Center to further his education. Thank you, Liam, for allowing us to interview you!

#1: Liam DiFalco

Editor: “Hey Liam, how’s it going?”

Liam: “Pretty good.”

Editor: “So tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do, what are your interests?”

Liam: “Well I live in Burlington, Vermont, but I was born in Bristol. I go to school at Burlington High School, and I have interests in computers and cars. In fact, building cars is a hobby of mine. I’m trying to get Digital Forensics as my major going to Champlain College.”

Editor: “Living in Burlington, how easy is it for you to pursue those interests in data recovery and computer stuff?”

Liam: “Well, I mean, it’s certainly not as populated a state as, say, California. There’s not as many tools or resources as there are in very populated cities, but living in Burlington, it’s nice to have access to the Leahy Center and all of these tools, as well as people that know what they’re doing to help teach you how to use them.”

Editor: “How did you hear about the Leahy Center?”

Liam: “Well, I actually have a relative who works in this building, so I’ve been here several times. I’ve seen this place as I go back and forth, and I ask, “What do they do? It looks really impressive.” It wasn’t until last summer, when I heard about DFCS Academy, where I was like, “OK, I want to do this so I can get more involved with whatever is going on over here,” and I learned more about digital forensics and cybersecurity in those two weeks than I have in my entire life.”

Experience at the Leahy Center

Editor: “Speaking of your experience here, what kind of things are you doing? What kinds of projects are you working on?”

Liam: “Even though it’s been a few weeks, I’m still getting a hold of everything that I need to be learning, including using VMWare, learning the lingo, and learning all the different tools I need to use. It’s still pretty fascinating to me. I could spend days on end in that lab, searching through a drive or just doing research on what I need to do. It’s just interesting, there’s so much I could learn from it.”

“I learned more about digital forensics and cybersecurity in those two weeks than I have in my entire life.”

Editor: “Can you go into a bit more detail on the different tools that are available to you here that you might not have access to elsewhere?”

Liam: “Just in data recovery, there’s Axiom, EnCase, all the VMWare tools, thousands of dollars worth of software that I would never be able to use at my house. There are 3-D printers, powerful and expensive computers, write blockers, different kinds of forensic tools that I can delve into, it’s a trove of tools you can use to stop cyber-crime and learn something.”

Editor: “Talk to us about the community here. What is it like working on projects with the people who are on your shift with you?”

Liam: “Working with the people in my group, the data recovery group, is pretty good. They’re very independent. They know what they’re doing. It’s interesting to see and watch what they’re doing through the Trello boards different blog posts we have. During my first couple of days here, I was pretty intimidated. I was a little bit shorter than everyone else, I didn’t really know anybody, but everybody here is extremely friendly, extremely kind.

Balancing School and Work

Editor: “How does the stuff you’re doing in high school tie in with the stuff you’re doing here at the Leahy Center? Is there any interconnected material between both of them?”

Liam: “Well, surprisingly, yes and no. In almost every class I can bring up something that I learned about here. This is a weird example, but when I’m talking to students about deleting files on your phone or computer, they don’t understand the concept that it’s still there, it’s still gonna be there. It’s kind of interesting to see how much more I know about this stuff than them and seeing all the stuff they know about that I don’t.”

Editor: “You seem pretty driven in your work here. You’re still going to school, how are you balancing coming here and doing your work at the Leahy Center while also being a high school student?”

Liam: “Well, I contacted my advisers through the school. We managed to get it so I could have fewer shifts here, two-hour shifts instead of three or four, and only come into school before or after my shifts. I had my classes picked out for the day to balance this and school. I feel this could be more important than just getting the credits to graduate.”

Wrapping Up

Editor: “Where do you see yourself in the future after college, after you take these classes at Champlain? How do you feel your experience here helps you with that?”

Liam: “Well, I hope to see myself getting into a fairly decent job after college, ideally within the first few months, maybe working with the Leahy Center or a private firm. I don’t know the path that’s waiting for me after college. With this job, it could be anything, from a small business to a firm or corporation, but I hope to be able to use these skills to my advantage every single day.”

Editor: “Fantastic. I just have one more question for you: how do you like it here?”

Liam: “If I had to come up with one word, I would say it’s very comfortable here. I feel like this is the place where I’m supposed to be during the day. I’m relaxed, people around me know what they’re doing, and I’m learning what I’m doing. I don’t feel like I’m stressed out coming here, or glad that I’m leaving; I’m kind of sad when I leave. I think it’s a pretty great place.”

Editor: “Cool, well it was nice talking to you!”

Liam: “Yeah, thank you!”

*As of 11/20/19 Liam has accepted to the Computer & Digital Forensics program at Champlain College and will be attending as a full-time student in the fall of 2020.

All Photos by Deja Miller, ‘22 // Marketing

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