Cal Poly Names Josiah Lashley Outstanding Student Employee of the Year
Josiah Lashley, a Hemet High school graduate, is recognized as Cal Poly's 2019-2020 Outstanding Student Employee of the Year. Lashley's name, along with every Cal Poly Outstanding Student Employee of the Year since 1994, will be etched on a perpetual plaque that hangs in the University Union.
Lashley, now a third-year statistics major minoring in data science, was nominated by Danielle Borrelli for his work with the Cal Poly California Cybersecurity Institute (CCI). Lashley worked on two projects in collaboration with the Global Emancipation Network that involved aggregating information to create databases used to investigate human trafficking crimes. The Global Emancipation Network is an organization that fights human trafficking by striving to be the global clearinghouse for human trafficking data.
"I really enjoy the idea of applying data science to make the world a better place, and this internship opportunity allowed me to do just that," says Lashley. "It's incredibly rewarding to know that my contribution results in finding meaning in these huge amounts of data that might otherwise be meaningless."
During his summer internship with the CCI, Lashley worked on several data projects focused on data science for good. On one particular project with GEN, he was able to aggregate data related to human trafficking in the United Kingdom. The information will be used to increase efficiency in human trafficking and related investigations.
"The positive feedback we received suggests that the resulting database is adding efficiency to these types of human trafficking investigations," according to Borrelli, operations coordinator at the CCI.
In a separate project, Lashley helped create a database that assists in identifying massage parlors in Florida that might be involved in illegal activity associated with human trafficking. The resulting database identified approximately 5,000 illicit massage parlors that law enforcement agencies can now use as leads to concentrate resources for further examination.
"It worked so well because of how much data we had to work with," said Lashley. "We combed through thousands of police reports and chat boards to aggregate details and key terms to create lexicon scores to help narrow down what massage parlors may be involved with illegal activity."
As a member of the Data Science Fellowship, Lashley assisted another group of students in developing similar models for use in California and Texas.
In addition to his contributions to the Global Emancipation Network projects, Lashley was instrumental in creating a Learn By Doing hospital emersion setting at DEF CON 27. DEF CON is the world's longest running and largest underground hacking conference in the world. The CCI was invited to DEF CON 27 to help increase awareness of vulnerabilities in hospital equipment connected to digital networks. At the Las Vegas conference, thousands of hackers used the CCI's mock hospital to attempt to hack the staged medical equipment. Trying to hack the medical devices exposes vulnerabilities that manufacturers can then address to improve their products continually.
"We are very pleased to see Josiah recognized for his incredible contribution with us," said Borrelli. "Human trafficking is one of the greatest human rights violations of our time and figuring out innovative ways to help combat it is crucial."
The CCI serves as an extended Learn by Doing space for Cal Poly students to explore new cyber technologies and train and test tactics alongside law enforcement professionals and cyber forensics experts. The program helps shape California's cyber standards and practices by offering an environment for cyber defense innovation through advanced study and basic and applied research on emerging issues and technical challenges.