Phish Byte wins Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar’s 2021 Congressional App Challenge in Florida’s 27th District

Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar has named Joshua Trattler, Jacob Getson, Leonardo De Paoli, and Harry Sharma of Gulliver Preparatory as the winners of the 2021 Congressional App Challenge in Florida’s 27th District.

When asked what inspired the creation of Phish Byte, one student said, “Over the course of my life, but more so recently, I’ve seen family and friends get personal information and data stolen, mostly happening through email platforms. This has happened to me personally in the past.

I received an email from a “college” in my school email. Being a young teenager excited to receive his first college email, I opened it. Inside, there was a link to the college’s website, which I clicked, hoping to see information about this school. Once the website opened, it prompted me to accept permissions/cookies and similar stuff (I obviously clicked accept without reading the terms, as 99% of people do). I stayed on this website for 1-2 minutes, but left quickly because it was a poorly made and hard to use website. In the following days, my computer became glitchy, and I would get google ad notifications on my homescreen for sketchy websites I had never seen before. I did a factory reset on my computer to get rid of it. While I hope they did not steal any of my personal information, I will never truly know.

After hearing from friends and family, and taking my own story into account, I went out into my community and asked my peers if they had similar issues. And to no surprise, the majority of people said they knew someone who had or believed they had their systems compromised.

At this point, I decided I needed to do something about it. I researched online, and found verizon data from their security reports stating millions of internet users click on malicious links every day, with most of these coming from messaging apps. I continued my research by finding out why people did nothing to protect themselves. The main reasons I found were that people don’t trust downloadable cyber security software, think it’s too complicated, too expensive, or think it’s just too much work to install security software into every breachable aspect of their online work. That is why I decided to create a Google Workspace add-on, verified by Google connecting directly to a user’s google account, to protect users from malicious phishing links and malware on all Google Workspace Applications, on any device capable of running these applications, all with only one download and sign up. This allows users to have a safe, easy, and trusted way of protecting all of their systems in one go.”

The 2021 Congressional App Challenge yielded 2,101 fully functioning apps. After eighteen months of disruptions to educational cadences for students everywhere, the Congressional App Challenge came roaring back with 7,174 students registering for this year’s competition. All told, 340 Members of Congress hosted Congressional App Challenges in their districts across 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington, D.C.

The Congressional App Challenge is an official initiative of the U.S. House of Representatives, where Members of Congress host contests in their districts for middle school and high school students, encouraging them to learn to code and inspiring them to pursue careers in computer science. Each participating Member of Congress selects a winning app from their district, and each winning team is invited to showcase their winning app to Congress during our annual #HouseOfCode festival. The program is a public-private partnership made possible through funding from Omidyar Network, AWS, theCoderSchool, Facebook, Replit, Accenture, and others.

The 2022 Congressional App Challenge will launch in June of 2022, and eligible students can pre-register for the competition now.