Intel & Cyber student-analysts earn accolades for digital advertising study

Monday, June 05, 2023

center for academic engagementAccolades abound for Mercyhurst University students following the first-ever joint Intelligence Studies and Cyber Security senior capstone project, which was completed at the behest of the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG).

TAG is the leading global initiative fighting criminal activity and increasing trust in the digital advertising industry, according to its website. TAG is among the many businesses, organizations, and government groups that partner with the university to help student-analysts gain real-world, marketable skills before graduating.

Most recently, TAG engaged student-analysts to investigate trends in criminal exploitation of the digital advertising supply chain, highlights of which TAG shared in its company newsletter.

“As criminal activities in digital advertising continue to expand and evolve, it’s important that college students learn the expertise and skills necessary to protect this vital sector of the global economy,” said Mike Lyden, TAG’s vice president for Threat Intelligence and an alumnus of Mercyhurst’s Applied Intelligence graduate program. “We were absolutely blown away at the student-analysts’ professionalism and determination, not to mention the quality of analytic tradecraft, and we were delighted to get to work with such talented individuals from the next generation of threat intelligence leaders.”

The Mercyhurst team’s independent final assessment, which emphasized the vulnerability of affiliate networks to criminal exploitation, reinforced the conclusions of many veterans in the fight against malvertising, TAG noted. The assessment found it almost certain that criminal groups will exploit affiliate network vulnerabilities over the next one to three years through digital malvertising campaigns. In particular, criminal groups are likely to increase the quantity of attacks during holidays and big events, exploit drive-by-downloads, conduct forced redirects, and utilize other tactics to attack both affiliate networks and consumers.

Lindy Smart, executive director of the Mercyhurst Department of Intelligence Studies, said, “We are grateful for this unique, challenging project that TAG supported for Mercyhurst Intel and Cyber students. This project took applied learning to the next level by bringing together Intel and Cyber students in one capstone; students also learned the real-world opportunities and challenges of working on cross-functional teams.”

Dr. Chris Mansour, co-founder of Mercyhurst’s Cyber Security programs, was equally enthused. ““I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the students involved in this project for their outstanding work and dedication,” he said. “They demonstrated a deep understanding of the challenges facing the digital advertising industry and developed a valuable assessment. Their work is a valuable contribution to the fight against criminal activity and will help to increase trust in the digital advertising industry. I am confident that this is just the beginning of many more successful projects to come between our programs. Our students are talented and committed to making a difference in the world.”