Education - Page 11 - Liberal arts from page 9

Education
- Page 11
Liberal arts from page 9
skills were so critical.”

That said, he does caution that students sometimes are looking for graduate-level programs when what they really need is technical training. “You don’t need to be a coder to be in cybersecurity – but it helps.”

Cybersecurity touches on economics, public policy and biotechnology. “Pick a field or major, and cybersecurity applies to it,” Forno says. “It really is interdisciplinary.”

The program can be tailored to a student’s specific area of interest. Forno notes that while certain fields such as the medical and financial fields are heavily regulated, and students need to know the regulations, the precautions to protect information are similar, whether for a bank or for Target.

Classes meet once a week, which allows part-time students to take two classes in a semester, and some courses are hybrid. When the program launched in 2011, “a lot of our students came because it was in-person,” Forno says, but notes students now like the convenience of hybrid classes.

Graduate students also enjoy a chance to work with faculty doing research and internship experiences.

“You can go to grad school and get a degree and get a job,” Forno says. “But we want you to be a professional. You can do more than just your degree. There’s depth to what we offer.”

Towson University

Mike O’Leary, Ph.D., coaches at Towson, but instead of athletes he works with computer wizards and takes his Towson University Cyber Security team to the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. His archrival UMBC won the national competition this year.

Towson has won the Mid-Atlantic Regional phase of the competition three times, most recently in 2014, and often finishes in the top three. “It’s always Towson, College Park and UMBC,” O’Leary says. “People don’t realize how good these schools are.”

He also fields teams for other competitions, too, such as the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, Maryland Cyber Challenge, and grueling Capture the Flag competitions, which can run for hours.

O’Leary, who also chairs the math department, has a strong pool to recruit from – Towson’s computer sciences major offers a track in cybersecurity. The program was developed with the help of a National Science Foundation grant in 2001, and is one of the older undergraduate programs in the region. The program was founded in response to a need for employees who were technically proficient, who could analyze malware and reverse engineer it. Towson is one of just 17 schools that are a Center for
Excellence in Cyber Operations.

Students take all of the required computer science courses, including calculus and probability. In the cybersecurity track, they take mathematical cryptography, network security and operational security. They learn reverse engineering and malware analysis.

In the capstone course, taught by O’Leary and focusing on case studies, they work in teams, and one team builds a network while three other teams try to break in.
Meanwhile those who built the network are also on a team trying to attack a different network.

“Imagine the chaos of them all trying to break into each other’s network while trying to keep their own network up and running,” O’Leary says.

As part of the course, O’Leary brings in a “Red Team,” former graduates who now work with government agencies, and has them attack the students’ networks. “They get a chance to see what it’s like to be hacked by real professionals,” he says. This year, the Red Team brought a French Ransom virus, a variant of the UCASH virus, to test students.

“It’s a very challenging, technical field,” O’Leary adds. “A good cybersecurity system should be built under the assumption that the enemy has penetrated your network. You have to work in an assumed breach scenario.” The program graduates about 20 students each year.

“None of my students have trouble getting multiple, lucrative job offers,” O’Leary says. “The demand in this area is just so incredible. There aren’t enough people.” •