IT all started when young 16-year-old Jason Jacobs of Pouderoyen, West Bank Demerara, embarked on the journey to complete a BSc. Computer Science programme at the University of Guyana in September, 2017.
“I always had a big heart for computers and Information Technology from my days of being in high school. Those were the days when I would count the things such as reloading computers and fixing the Wi-Fi at my mom’s workplace my prime activities; not knowing the best was yet to come,” Jason stated.
“Upon joining the University of Guyana, I had interests in many fields within the Computer Science discipline. Those many ideas and passions I had were soon trimmed down to a focus when my friends encouraged me to join University of Guyana’s Cybersecurity Club,” he added.
Jason was encouraged to join the Cybersecurity Club by the club’s founding members Teekae Jordan and Shemar Austin. They needed to fill the position of Events Coordinator and Jason was roped in as a member of the club’s executive, while in his second year of undergraduate studies.
While volunteering within the Cybersecurity Club, Jason joined along with a team of passionate Cybersecurity practitioners to train students in the art of testing the defence of various computer-operating systems to enhance their security from potential threats – this was the art of penetration testing.
Simultaneously, Jason enrolled in a second-year undergraduate computer science course called Introduction to Information and Computer Security. This course was being taught by Miss Sandra Khan, a lecturer in the Department of Computer Science, who was also the Club Adviser for the Cyber Security Club.
The course complements the practical activities of the UG Cybersecurity Club, because it teaches the fundamental theoretical principles of information security. Students who perform well in this course are eligible to become tutors for the following year’s course. Tutors primarily assist with tutorial sessions.
“Every past tutor of CSE 2203 has been a student who was also a member of the UGCC,” stated Khan, adding that: “The club is a magnet for students with a passion for cybersecurity and the course provides the theoretical basis to empower their understanding of the inner workings of the practical tools they love so much. It was a joy to see the synergy of the club and course embodied in Jason as he developed his understanding of the theoretical principles, the practical applications, and an understanding of the wider national and international cybersecurity policy framework. Jason performed beyond expectations as tutor for two consecutive years.”
In the year 2019, Jason took up the challenge with the Cybersecurity Club to participate in the Organisation of American States (OAS) CICTE’s Diplohack challenge event, Washington DC, United States, where Team Guyana competed against Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the USA, Costa Rica and Mexico on drafting policies regarding the security of information systems and their efficient recovery from cyber attacks.
“The Diplohack event was a big eye-opener for me after seeing our team feel the squeeze from universities that were well versed and experienced with Cybersecurity Policy and Incident Response,” Jason added. Later in 2019, Jason received an internship opportunity with The National Data Management Authority (NDMA) within Cybersecurity Operations to perform proactive monitoring and response to cyber incidents for the eGovernment’s network infrastructure.
Jason was elected to President of the university’s Cybersecurity Club for the year 2020/2021 throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, where the club members shared Cybersecurity news, intelligence, and learning opportunities amongst themselves online.
Prior to the final year of his degree programme, Jason worked remotely as a Cybersecurity Consultant with the G5 Cybersecurity, a Caribbean-based Cybersecurity organisation. While working with them, he took part in projects for building an information centre to document the Cybersecurity and Data Privacy progress of all Caribbean countries for the G5 Cybersecurity blog. The G5 Cybersecurity also built the Caribbean Cyber Team, an online group that provides resources and learning opportunities to upskill individuals interested in building a career in Information Technology and Computer Science.
In 2021, Jason joined other stalwarts from the Cybersecurity Club as Guyana’s only participant group in OAS CICTE’s International Cyber Ex 2021 Competition, where Guyana ranked 36th out of 82 competing countries.
“Of all the achievements I have managed within my career, my greatest prayer was that my elders who were my all-time supporters would be there to witness it when it is all done and that I’m most grateful for,” Jason concluded.
The chief source of support came from his mother, Arlene Andrews, herself an Accounts graduate of the University of Guyana, who has a professional career in Management and Accounting.
“Long nights and sometimes many sleepless hours were what I have been doing to support my boy. Even the nights when I fall asleep while he is studying, I’m there to show my presence of support.
Some nights it used to take the effort to remind him of work due, so he catches up on everything he had to do,” the mother stated. Guyana is blessed with yet another exceptional University of Guyana Computer Science graduate with his sights set on a career in Cybersecurity. And it is not a moment too soon, considering the international scope of cyber-criminal activities. (University of Guyana’s Cybersecurity Club)