Confronting Injustice and Poverty through Cyber
POSTED ON: Wednesday, October 13, 2021 1:34 PM by Colleen Krueger, USNA Public Affairs
As Americans, we can often take for granted how privileged we are. The world is full of unimaginable atrocities that most people only read about. One midshipman has seen these situations first-hand while living abroad as a teenager and as a result is dedicating his life to help alleviate suffering around the world. Midshipman 1st Class (senior) Chase Lee has taken lessons from these experiences and turned them into his passion to make the world a better place.
Lee's upbringing had a lot to do with his passion to serve. Both his parents immigrated to the United States from South Korea as young children. His father started working at age nine and later served as a U.S. Secret Service agent for over 25 years, having protected four presidents and three vice presidents.
"My father learned at an early age that a strong work ethic and commitment to academics would lead to success in life," said Lee. "He instilled that same mindset in me. While observing him thrive in his career, I learned how this great country has provided incredible opportunities for many people, including my family. My father continues to motivate me to pursue my interests and make a positive difference in the world."
Between his time living overseas as a child and now majoring in Cyber Operations, he has not only spoken to victims himself but now has cyber-related tools, our modern-day weapons, he is to try to prevent future suffering.
"I lived in Southeast Asia for eight years, and I witnessed firsthand the divide between those living in the lesser-developed parts of the world compared to those living in comfort," said Lee. "I broke bread with families that sparingly ate only a single cup of rice every day to sustain themselves. I noticed mothers begging for monetary donations on street corners while their infants slept on their laps. I also traveled to rural areas in Cambodia where children have to walk a gruesome 5-10 miles to attend their elementary school every day. From this experience, I felt a deep sense of gratitude. I genuinely recognized that I have a moral obligation to support these impoverished children and families."
That heartfelt compassion drove him to lead the NIST Microcredit Bank as president in his Bangkok, Thailand, high school. The student-run service group aimed to provide academic scholarships for dependents of the school's support staff, whose monthly income averages a mere $70-$85.
“Through this service group, I realized that poverty is a cycle that perpetuates through generations, which is often the result of a monetary burden,” said Lee. “Yet, education is a necessary component to help mitigate and prevent this cycle from persisting.”
With the new “battle ground” being in the cyber world, he is committed to helping educate the younger generation on cyber safety as a Cyber Operations major.
His senior capstone project focuses on a current hot topic - voting. He is studying the potential application of enhancing electronic voting and hopes to protect the integrity of our nation's critical infrastructure and our foundation as a democracy.
“The weaknesses are the vulnerable systems that undermine voters' confidence in the confidentiality and integrity of the voter data,” said Lee. “With the potential application of smart contracts using the Ethereum blockchain in electronic voting, this could help automate the execution of an agreement so that all participants can be certain of the outcome without the involvement of an intermediary. By employing smart contracts, it would ensure the confidentiality and integrity of voter data.”
Lee isn’t stopping at his senior capstone project. He is going above and beyond by volunteering to do an independent research project focusing on identifying gaps in cybersecurity and cyber safety education for primary school students in the State of Maryland."
There is a sometimes overused saying that "children are the future," but Lee agrees with this more than most. With each generation, the dynamics of society change, sometimes for better and sometimes if we're not careful, for worse. The current culprit is in the cyber world: The internet. It can be the greatest gift to society and the greatest curse. There is a dark side of this gift and Lee has decided to dedicate his time and talents to ensuring cyber safety for younger generations.
He is focusing on identifying gaps in knowledge pertaining to current cybersecurity and cyber safety education in Maryland schools. For example, students may learn more about the technical principles of cyber protection but lack the knowledge and training about simple practices such as complex passwords and identifying suspicious emails or links. His goal is to best inform young Americans about the digital threats, vulnerabilities, and risks in the cyber world to teach them the fundamental cybersecurity and cyber safety principles.
“Chase Lee is one of the most outstanding students I've encountered since coming to the Naval Academy six years ago,” said Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Hatfield, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Cyber Science. “It's not just his 4.0 GPA, impeccable professionalism, and astute critical thinking skills. Rather, what has impressed me most about Chase is his kindness toward others and willingness to help his fellow midshipmen. Both in my courses and on a three-week trip to England, Lee represented the best of America's future. As merely one anecdote: the special assistant to Prince Charles, with whom Chase dined one evening in London, came away saying that is one truly impressive future leader!’"
Lee is so passionate about education and civic engagement that he joined the National Korean American Grassroots Conference, an organization committed to civic engagement and contributing to the U.S.-Korean alliance. He continues to interact with various members of the Korean American community and promote projects and organizations that serve the American public.
“I was also grateful to have the opportunity to speak to our Congressmen and women during a Capitol Hill visit about some of the burdens that Korean Americans have to endure to achieve their American Dream,” said Lee. “Truthfully, I agree with the belief that the key to enabling our community to flourish and thrive is education.”
Lee has an immense sense of gratitude for his parent’s sacrifices they have made for family and the values they have instilled in him.
After graduating this May, Lee intends to commission as a Navy Information Professional (IP) officer. IP officers are an integral part of the Information Warfare community and allow the Armed Forces to gain an in-depth understanding of the network vulnerabilities for both our systems and our adversaries.