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Uneo Health Pen Test Offers Cyber Team Hands-on Experience

Alex Kasten
By Alex Kasten
  • News |
  • Cybersecurity

One of the best ways to learn is by tackling real-life problems. University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) students are getting that opportunity through their involvement in a pen test—short for penetration test—to gauge the cybersecurity of a D.C. area behavioral health company.

“Universities are always looking to incorporate real-world and relevant projects into their curriculum,” said Helen Barker, department chair of the cybersecurity program at UMGC. “These experiences help students become career-ready so they can hit the ground running when they enter the workforce.”

Barker, along with James Robertson, program director of UMGC’s Cyber DevOps, recently jumped at the chance to involve students in a pen test on a product used by Uneo Health, a D.C. metro area company that supports the behavioral health needs of teens and young adults.

Members of UMGC’s award-winning cybersecurity competition team conducted the pen test, a security exercise to find and exploit vulnerabilities, on Uneo’s Prosper platform, which offers its users a personalized, AI-enabled self-care experience. Users of the platform receive care messages, as well as “nudges” on their smartphones, from their health care provider. 

“There is a growing need for secure products supporting the health care industry,” said Robertson. “Protecting and securing the records and personal information of patients is a requirement of all businesses and organizations working in the health care sector.”

The pen test included a cloud-based security review led by Robertson, who was provided access to the application and supporting Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud systems. He and the cyber team ran several diagnostic tools to identify potential vulnerabilities and privacy concerns.

Robertson worked in collaboration with Jesse Varsalone, associate professor of cybersecurity technology at UMGC and faculty coordinator of the cybersecurity competition team. The cyber team reviewed the results and corresponding vulnerability report and provided comments, feedback and recommendations.

“This pilot project provided a valuable learning experience for the team,” said Varsalone. “It demonstrated a pathway to integrate real-world cybersecurity scenarios into our university setting.”

For Uneo, the pen test generated insights that are critical for organizations working with sensitive health care data. 

“We were excited to partner with UMGC on this cyber review,” said Alden Sullivan, chief technology officer and co-founder of Uneo Health. “Their findings were clearly presented and provided our team additional insights which enabled us to further strengthen our security posture.”

Established in 2012, the UMGC cybersecurity team is composed of students, alumni and faculty who compete regularly in digital forensics, penetration testing and computer network defense scenarios that help them gain experience to advance their cybersecurity careers. To prepare for competitions, students detect and combat cyberattacks in the university’s Virtual Security Lab and work through case studies in an online classroom.

The UMGC team, which recently moved into third place in the Hack the Box rankings among U.S.-based teams, has earned numerous honors throughout its history, including championships in local, national and international competitions. In addition to several top-three finishes in the Maryland Cyber Challenge, UMGC won the gold medal in the 2014 Global CyberLympics and took first place in 2015 in the inaugural DiploHack competition sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. UMGC also won a Silver Award in the 2016 National Cyber Analyst Challenge and finished third in the 2022 Maritime and Control Systems Cybersecurity Con Hack the Port competition.