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The need for cybersecurity is dire and imminent. A report by RiskBased Security revealed that data breaches exposed a baffling 7.9 billion records in the first nine months of 2019. That’s not all. This figure is more than double (112%) the number of records exposed in the same period in the year 2018.
Also, studies by the International Association of IT Asset Managers (IATAM) have unearthed that working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic is leading to a surge in cyber attacks. This sets the stage for you if you have embarked on your journey with cybersecurity.
Over the years, many have flocked to cybersecurity as a career option. Suppose you are someone who recently made or is making the transition toward cybersecurity. In that case, the next few paragraphs will help you get your hands dirty with cybersecurity project ideas that’ll prepare you for the real-life test that already exists in the form of data breaches and thefts.
Moreover, different projects compel you to think outside the box and show your capability of handling different situations when it comes to dealing with an external threat or attack. All in all, these projects are here to help you hone your skills.
Top Cyber Security Project Ideas
1. Crack the Caesar Cipher
The Caesar cypher is rampant in its use. It is one of the simplest and most widely used encryption techniques. This method of encryption was used by Julius Caesar himself to get the word out without letting the proverbial bunny rabbit out of the hat. So, how does it work as a cybersecurity project idea?
This method comprises shifting each letter in the alphabet to either the left or right by a certain number to communicate. It then includes writing the message using the new alphabetical arrangement. For example, if the shift is equal to 1 letter to the left, then each alphabet in the word Hello will shift 1 space to the left. Hello will then be equal to Gdkkn. In the image below, the shift is 3 spaces to the left.
On the basis of this concept, your project could be to conceptualize a web app that breaks ciphers on the basis of the shift, or you could write a program that does both encryption and decryption of codes using the Caesar cypher.
Read: Top Cyber Security Tools
2. Hash It Out
You can consider hashing as another form of encryption in which text is scrambled into what seems like gibberish. The only catch is that this transformation of text into gibberish is a one-way transformation. So, when you enter your email address along with its password, your password scrambles into a hashed password, like the one here.
Different algorithms help hash these passwords into their respective hash values. Each algorithm will differently convert your password. Some hashes can be long, and some can be short.
Still, hashes will always have a one-way transformation, which means if an algorithm replaces your password with, for example, gdee3344422dddfdfdcd, it will always be gdee3344422dddfdfdcd regardless of how many times you rehash it using the same algorithm.
Your project could therefore be to check out all the hash functions out there to build your own hash encoder written in Python. However, simple hashes become predictable and susceptible to brute force attacks. These brute force attacks rely on time and sheer computer processing power, they go through each permutation and combination till they get a hit on your password.
That’s why multilayer encryption systems are now put in place to defend against such attacks. Therefore, your second project could focus on how these multilayer systems operate to make the data more secure.
3. Examine a Keystroke Logger
As the name suggests, a keystroke logger logs information related to the keys struck on the keyboard. Yes, it keeps track of everything that’s being typed, and it opens yet another door for a cybersecurity project idea. A keystroke logger can be used to track activity, or it can also be used as malware to steal sensitive data if the keystroke logger is installed without the knowledge of the user.
It can be used to intercept passwords, credit card details, and other sensitive data entered through the keyboard, which means there’s a lot at stake for you if you wish to keep your sensitive data protected.
Your project could therefore be to build a simple keylogger, written in Python so that you are privy as to how the data are logged and transmitted to a hacker. You can additionally research and analyze how a keylogger can be detected in the first place, which will further take you to the steps that can be taken to remove one from your personal device.
Lastly, if you were to challenge yourself, you could deep dive into finding out how to make a keylogger that operates on a virtual keyboard (one that does not require key inputs).
4. Understand Packet Sniffing
When it comes to computer networking, data are quite literally transferred from the source to the destination in the form of packets. A packet sniffer then goes to work on the transmitted data. It gathers and logs the packets that pass through the computer network.
These packets are the smallest units of communication over a computer network. Sniffing usually involves network administrators intercepting and gauging the packets for bandwidth and traffic. Think of it as wiretapping a telephone line; however, malicious packet sniffers can capture unencrypted packets carrying sensitive data. This can make your passwords and important credentials vulnerable to leaks. Your data can be stolen over the same computer network.
Thus, your project could be to build a packet sniffer from scratch and use it to intercept packets on your personal computer network to understand how the miscreants sniff your data. In addition, researching the legal limits of packet sniffing would give you a good idea about the moral line you should draw in the sand when it comes to the extent to which you can sniff around and access packets of data.
5. Shield Against SQL Injection
SQL Injection (SQLi) is one of the most common web hacking techniques. That’s why it’s doubly important to shield against it. Simply, hackers use SQL Injections to view data that they cannot retrieve, executing malicious SQL statements in the process.
These statements then go on to control a database server behind a web application; this is not an ideal situation to be in as hackers use SQL injection vulnerabilities to bypass security measures. What does this mean?
This means that they can circumvent the authentication and authorization of a web page or web application and access the content of the entire SQL database. Moreover, they can use SQL injection to modify and delete records in the database. In a nutshell, the hackers have total control.
A cool cybersecurity project idea for you would be to unravel the common vulnerabilities that allow hackers to achieve their end goal; understanding this could lead to shield against such an attack. Also, the project can help you acquaint yourself with query-language syntax and learn more about queries and databases. That’s always a bonus should you want to learn more.
To take it a step further, your project can entail running SQL injection vulnerability assessments on websites. Be advised that you would need to gain permission from the website owners first. If not, there’s another way to operate. You could make your own website to run tests on.
This way, you won’t have to worry about gaining permission. In the end, after going through the wringer, you will have unearthed the myriad ways to prevent an SQL injection attack. In doing so, you could implement the preventive methods on your own website as an added plus. You can shield yourself better by understanding how the hack happens.
6. Bug Bounties and Hackathons
If you wish to further improve and challenge yourself, becoming a bug bounty hunter could well be your next step, or you could enlist yourself in the myriad hackathons that take place. There are plenty of them to go around over the world wide web, and these are great for cybersecurity project ideas.
All you have to do is keep a lookout for when such events come calling. The Smart India Hackathon is one fine example of such hackathons. These are great to gain relevant experience. Also, it’s always nice to get paid once you find the bugs. On the basis of how you solve the problems, you could make a nifty little report to self evaluate your efforts. This report can then be used as a reference to track your progress from a novice to an intermediate level cybersecurity expert.
There are a lot of possibilities to explore in the world of Cybersecurity projects! No matter whether you are a veteran or have just started out, the key to growth is to continuously keep testing yourself. That is the only certain metric to drive yourself and your growth forward!
To gain adequate knowledge in the field of cybersecurity, one can opt for PG level courses in cybersecurity. upGrad, in collaboration with IIIT Bangalore, offers a PG course named, PG Diploma in Software Development Specialisation in Cyber Security for aspiring cybersecurity professionals.