UAB computer science student AJ Nettles wins Apple’s Swift Student Challenge for his password security app

The annual challenge gives students an opportunity to engage with the company in a unique way and apply their coding skills.

Nettles StreamAJ Nettles of Monroeville, Alabama, a second-year graduate student in cybersecurity at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Computer Science, has won Apple’s Swift Student Challenge 2024

The award recognizes Nettles’ excellence in creativity, innovation, social impact and inclusivity while designing his app. Winning this competitive challenge has earned him an invitation to Apple’s annual developers conference in Cupertino, California, one year of membership in the Apple Developer Program, a voucher to take an App Development with Swift certification exam and a special gift from Apple.

“At Apple, we believe apps for everyone should be made by everyone, and we support developers at every stage of their journey,” said Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Developer Relations. “The Swift Student Challenge is a fun and exciting way that we encourage students across the world and from all walks of life to showcase their coding skills. AJ is a problem-solver, and that is reflected in his app development. He is deeply committed to not only educating users on the importance of cybersecurity but doing so in a fun, engaging way to ensure his message hits home in his app.”

For the Swift Challenge 2024, everyone had three weeks to go from an idea to a digital masterpiece. Nettles’ app playground was called “CryptOh?” and is a guide to better password security describing how passwords are used in systems and reasons to create stronger passwords when making online accounts. After the user completes the guide, the app congratulates them on taking their security seriously, and then the app transforms into a password manager. The password manager is encrypted using the Secure Enclave included in Apple devices and can be unlocked by biometrics such as Face ID, Touch ID or the device’s passcode.

“It was a fun opportunity that I got to participate in, and I couldn’t do it without the support of my family and fiancée,” Nettles said. “I am very grateful to Apple for the opportunity and my friends for being beta testers, and I am excited to attend this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference this June.”