Cyber Warriors

Training the next generation of college students for protecting businesses and the public

By Martin Lenkowsky

When it comes to cybersecurity education, several of South Florida’s colleges and universities are emerging as nationally recognized institutions. For example, some programs have achieved special status from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Security Agency (NSA) for being centers of excellence.

As part of this quarter’s SFBW Special Report on Education, we look at three schools whose cybersecurity programs are regarded as being among the region’s best. Our report not only provides information about the programs, but also about internship opportunities and tips on cybersecurity for businesses.

SFBW sent a questionnaire to the schools; an edited version of their responses follows.

Nova Southeastern University

Information provided by Dr. Yair Levy, professor of information systems and cybersecurity and director of the Center for e-Learning Security Research at NSU’s College of Engineering and Computing.

What degree programs or concentrations do you offer in cybersecurity?

M.S. in Information Security (MSIS), 57 students

M.S. in Management Information Systems with concentration in Information Security Management (MMIS/InfoSec), 58 students

Ph.D. in Information Assurance (DIA), 3 candidates

Ph.D. in Information Systems with concentration in Information Security Management (DISS/InfoSec),
20 candidates

What are some aspects that make your programs stand out?

Our college is designated as a DHS/NSA National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense. All programs at NSU’s Center for Information Protection, Education and Research (CIPhER), which are noted above, are certified.

Our faculty members have the passion to educate the next-generation cybersecurity workforce, and we are recognized nationwide for our efforts, including our involvement with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and the Secret Service.

The caliber of our students is outstanding. They have years of information technology experience, which they bring to the classroom and research labs.

How can businesses work with you to offer internships?

NSU is exploring internship opportunities. We were just approached by KPMG to have some of our students engage in its cybersecurity division. We’ve conducted events where recruiters from the FBI Miami field office come to campus to discuss internship and job opportunities.

We also invite businesses and HR recruiters from various fields to attend our end-of-the-term project presentations. The next one will be held on Wednesday, April 13. We are also interested in establishing internship programs with other companies and would be happy to discuss such opportunities further.

How do you interact with the community in helping educate people about threats?

We conduct events throughout the year. One example is the presentation I provided for senior citizens on cybersecurity awareness last October at NSU’s Lifelong Learning Institute. More than 100 seniors attended. During October, which is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we conduct the annual Cybersecurity Day at NSU. More than 200 high school students attended for a day full of activities and lectures about cybersecurity.

What are some of the top threats businesses need to be aware of these days?

Social engineering

Business email compromise

Low organizational cybersecurity posture due to lack of IT competencies or proper IT support

Invalid policies, procedures and preparedness plans for cybersecurity events

What are some of the most cost-effective strategies in dealing with these threats?

Awareness and education about cybersecurity issues

Hiring competent and skillful cybersecurity individuals

Palm Beach State College

Information provided by Jose Ortiz, program grant director, who oversees the XCEL-IT grant, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor to provide qualified students with training and placement in information technology.

What degree programs or concentrations do you offer in cybersecurity?

College credit certificate in Information Security.

College credit certificate in CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) Security

Associate of Science for Networking Administrators

Bachelor of Applied Science in Information Management-Security and Network Assurance

A total of 371 students are enrolled in the above cybersecurity programs combined under the XCEL-IT grant.

What are some aspects that make your program stand
out?

As part of our efforts to innovate and provide a higher level of education and experience for our students, we created the first and only cybersecurity lab with an Ixia BreakingPoint Storm device for educational purposes in Palm Beach County. The device is a state-of-the-art stress tester used to detect vulnerabilities in networks and data centers.

This lab is the cornerstone of PBSC’s cybersecurity programs, and through our grant, we have purchased the latest in cybersecurity technology. This device will allow students to practice penetration testing and access vulnerabilities on networks and other systems, but most importantly, they will be able to safely understand computer hacking techniques and procedures.

How can businesses work with you to offer internships?

We work with the local CareerSource offices to offer employment opportunities to our participants. These opportunities might come in the form of full-time, part-time, on-the-job-training (OJT) and internships.

How do you interact with the community in helping educate people about threats?

Twice a year, we meet with the advisory board to have open discussions about how to improve our curriculum and internship opportunities and to provide updates on things the college is working on. We also have joined outside groups like the South Florida Technology Alliance to partner with the business community.

What are some of the top threats businesses need to be aware of these days?

Business managers must gain basic knowledge of how their most important data is stored and managed and look at public folders vs. secured folders.

Backups are important! Things will happen. Do you have a secured backup? Do you know how to access or search for lost data?

Train your employees about being secure while using the Internet, even while offline. Not every single USB storage device is safe.

Ensure you have a secure infrastructure in place. Firewalls and updated anti-virus programs are a must.

Have procedures to dispose of old computers and other data storage devices. Do you make sure to remove hard discs?

Not all anti-viruses are effective. Do not rely on free software; invest in a good anti-virus software and ensure it is running with the most updated version.

Train employees about cybersecurity and how they can prevent a cyberattack.

Florida International University

Information provided by S.S. Iyengar, Ryder professor of computer science and director of FIU’s School of Computing and Information Sciences.

What degree programs or concentrations do you offer in cybersecurity?

M.S. in Cybersecurity, started in fall 2015; 30 students enrolled

All of our programs have a cybersecurity component in the courses. We offer an M.S. and B.S. in computer science, information technology, networking, telecommunications, computer and electrical engineering, etc.

What are some aspects that make your programs stand out?

We are providing opportunities with good infrastructure to train our students to tackle cyber-related problems in the 21st century.

In 2015, FIU was designated a DHS/NSA Center of Excellence in Cybersecurity Education.

How can businesses work with you to offer internships?

We have a very strong program where many companies hire our students. We are currently working with Ultimate Software, Citrix, State Farm and many other companies throughout the United States.

As one of the winners of the Center for Digital Government’s 2014 Cybersecurity Leadership and Innovation Award, we have demonstrated we are serious about cybersecurity defense by putting into place systems, practices and policies that keep information safe for citizens.

How do you interact with the community in helping educate people about threats?

We conduct a variety of workshops; most recently, on Nov. 15, we held a U.S. Army-funded workshop entitled, “Emerging Cyber Techniques and Technologies,” with the theme of cyberscience, biometrics and digital forensics. We had researchers from all over the world participating in this event.

What are some of the top threats businesses need to be aware of these days?

All of the standard cybersecurity threats, including hacking, phishing scams, attacks, biometrics in context aware authentication, cloud computing, security constraints in cyberscience, smart-grid infrastructure, authentication for mobile devices, data fusion and real-time analytics for cybersecurity, biometric research and operations. (In other words, anything electronic can be hacked.)

What are some of the most cost-effective strategies in dealing with these threats?

The single best strategy is to prepare ahead of time! Know your people and the human factors for security, passwords, profiling, maintaining backup copies of data, etc.

Have workshops and seminars alerting people to these threats. ¿

Jose Ortiz, Palm Beach State College

Jose Ortiz, Palm Beach State College

Dr. Yair Levy, NSU

Dr. Yair Levy, NSU

Students work in the cybersecurity lab at Palm Beach State College

Students work in the cybersecurity lab at Palm Beach State College

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