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Shristi Sharma Wins High Honors at Eastern Iowa Science and Engineering Fair

Shristi Sharma, a Maharishi Middle School student, has won at the Eastern Iowa Science and Engineering Fair 2017.  Maharishi School is a private day and boarding school located in Southeast Iowa, ideal for families in the Midwest, and around the world!Maharishi Middle School student Shristi Sharma has won big at the 2017 Eastern Iowa Science and Engineering Fair with her project, "How Easily Can Your Password Be Hacked?".

Shristi's work is important for anyone who does online banking, has an email account, or shops online - in other words, nearly every one of us!  Shristi's research began with an interest in internet safety and security, and she decided to focus on passwords for her project.  Shristi explains, "passwords are a big part of cyber security, and our lives, because they are what allow us to access various resources. If someone knows your password, they can obtain confidential information about you, and use it for many reasons that range from enjoying a free Netflix subscription, to helping themselves to the money in your bank account. So, how secure are our passwords?"

How much did password length affect the security of online accounts, Shristi wondered.  She hypothesized that with every numerical digit added (independent variable), the time for a program that was guessing every single possible combination (Brute Force Attack) would increase exponentially (dependent variable).  Shristi then wrote a program in Python that used the Brute Force method to guess numerical passwords of 1-10 digits.  She recalls, "I tested the program with passwords of each length (20 times each) and recorded the time it took for the program to guess the password.  As the digits of the password increased, the time for the program to guess it increased as well, which was the result I expected."

Shristi's experiment found that the length of a password does indeed correspond to its strength, and she concluded that we should all make our passwords a minimum of eight digits to improve cyber safety.  Shristi Sharma, a Maharishi Middle School student, has been nominated for the BROADCOM Masters competition.  Maharishi School is a private day and boarding school located in Southeast Iowa, ideal for families in the Midwest, and around the world!

Shristi's creativity and hard work paid off, garnering her the Class One Award for Junior Physical Science, as well as a Broadcom Masters Outstanding Achievement Award.  The Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering Rising Stars) Program is the premier science and engineering competition for middle school students.  Shristi's nomination by the Eastern Iowa Science & Engineering Fair to participate in this competition is a great honor, as it designates her entry as among the top 10% of middle school science fair projects in the United States.

Congratulations to Shristi, her family, and all the faculty and staff at Maharishi School who supported her research and work.  We look forward to tracking your progress and learning about your experiences in the Broadcom Masters Competition!

Now, please excuse me while I go and change all my passwords!

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