Programming code abstract technology background

Online Connection Leads to a Summer Studying Cybersecurity

By Molly Manchenton

Peter Samura, Howard University

Peter Samura

Howard University computer engineering major Peter Samura, 19, a rising sophomore, grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland, the youngest child of immigrants from Sierra Leone. He talks about his experience as a Cyber Futures intern at MITRE, including his work supporting the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

I didn’t do any internships in high school, and a lot of people said you didn’t get internships until junior year [of college]. But I thought, “Who is setting this standard?” So, I had spent November and December of 2021 hunting for a summer internship when I saw a video on YouTube with a guy talking about his Cyber Futures internship at MITRE. That guy was Joshua Akhimiemona, who also went to Howard. I reached out through LinkedIn, and he connected me with people who worked on the program.

The first person from MITRE who emailed me was Shelley Folk, a lead cybersecurity engineer. We had a great conversation. I thought, “If a lead cybersecurity engineer is this down-to-earth and chill, this won’t be too bad of an experience!”

What impresses me most about the program is how structured it is and how serious MITRE is about cybersecurity. I’ve met so many people—all of them doing something different in cybersecurity. They showed that in cyber, you never feel boxed in, because the work is always changing. We work in defense, and defense can’t be stagnant. You deal with attackers.

After Cyber Orientation, Hands-on Cyber Experience

The most challenging aspect of the program is the actual cybersecurity work. We spent the first few weeks learning the basics of cybersecurity, including the ATT&CK® framework that MITRE developed to track adversarial behavior. 

I’m a computer engineering major, but a lot of the others are cyber majors who have covered this material in their classes and know this language. This is new for me.

Besides the cyber knowledge, it’s showing me what I should expect as an employee—and what’s expected of me. Working for CISA and DHS is a big thing because I want to get a security clearance someday. This program has put me one step closer to that. With that you have more career opportunities.

Learning About the Workplace and Lessons for the Future

I like being at MITRE. I love coming to the office. You can always meet someone new. I met someone in the café last week who said he liked my shoes, and we talked about shoes for a while. People are happy to talk to you. That makes it easier, especially when you’re new.

I’m learning lessons I can apply to my everyday life, too. I’ve talked with my project lead about emails and digital posting and how careful you need to be with what you post online. Everything is trackable. You can find anyone very easily. Once you have a digital footprint, it’s hard to hide. And if you don’t have a digital footprint, it makes people suspicious of you.

I don’t know whether I’ll work for a cybersecurity company, but this internship is invaluable. As a computer engineering major, I work with technology, but what I’m doing here is more policy focused. In college I work with hardware and software. Mixing policy with technology is invaluable. You must understand all aspects of the work.

as told to Molly Manchenton

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