College of Southern Maryland Technical Studies professors Joe Burgin, James Graves, Wendy Hume Hayes and John Wilson are helping to guide their students as they explore careers in cybersecurity through participation in the National Security Agency’s NSA Day of Cyber throughout the month of March.
With the growing sophistication of hackers, the need for trained cybersecurity professionals is critical to reduce vulnerabilities to America’s networks for commerce, communication and security, according to the National CyberWatch Center, a consortium of higher education institutions, businesses and government agencies.
Burgin began teaching computer science at CSM in 1999, the same year that software security vendors released the first anti-hacking products for personal computers.
Cybersecurity is among the topics and content Burgin teaches in courses including: Information Age: Emerging Technologies; Program Design and Development; Introduction to Linux; Windows Programming; Windows Programming for the Web; Web Programming; Algorithms and Data Structures; and Capstone Experience.
Burgin believes that the greatest challenge students in the near future will face are security and privacy issues.
“As citizens and those studying in technical fields, we need to transition from the idea that security is a feature added onto our systems as an afterthought to the requirement that security is a continuous process that is designed, ‘baked into,’ our systems from the start. Ensuring privacy and liberty depends on awareness of the technical as well as ethical issues involved in implementing secure systems,” said Burgin.
Burgin encouraged his students to participate in the NSA Day of Cyber, saying “[Through this experience] they have been exposed to cutting edge ideas and issues at the heart of our digital economy and culture.”
“[Through the NSA Day of Cyber] I did get a better idea of the scope of the IT fields NSA is interested in hiring,” said Ryan Kramer of Waldorf, one of Burgin’s students who is primarily interested in network/networking security and vulnerability assessment.
Graves began at CSM as an adjunct professor and has been teaching full time since 2013. He teaches Ethical Hacking, Digital Forensics and Networking I and II.
“Cyber threats continuously evolve and shape the direction we must embark upon to ensure the three pillars of Information Security, confidentiality, integrity and availability (C.I.A.), remain intact within our networks of tomorrow,” said Graves. “The NSA Day of Cyber provides great insight into our society and how technology is intertwined in our everyday lives. The individual activities allow students to see the ways cybersecurity plays a primary role in protecting technology infrastructure.”
Hayes, the college’s cybersecurity program coordinator, came to CSM in 2002 and has taught Computer Security which prepares students for the CompTIA Security+ exam, Ethical Hacking and Penetration Testing, Network and Infrastructure Defense and Information Systems Security Capstone.
“I made the NSA Day of Cyber activities available to my students because there is a big misconception about what a cybersecurity professional does,” said Hayes. “The interactive application focused on seven cyber professionals within NSA regarding what skills they needed to do their jobs and what an average day entailed. Along with these professional biographies, the NSA site provided critical thinking games with real-world scenarios. I found the critical thinking challenges to be a fun way to reinforce the need for problem-solving skills.”
“NSA Day of Cyber is a great experience for my students because it provides them with an insight into different cybersecurity professions and what it takes to get there,” Hayes said, who added that the NSA has now opened its educational co-op to community college students.
Wilson came to CSM in 2000 and teaches Cyber Ethics.
“NSA is part of the national intelligence community and I wanted to expose students to the varied work they do,” said Wilson. “Some students might not think of working in the intelligence field but there are many jobs in this area. The work is challenging and those who work in this field can see the results of their work, so there is great job satisfaction.” The activities in the Day of Cyber allow students to learn how they might use skills they are learning as they work on their degree.
Students who participated learned about seven career fields, from cyber threat center director to network operator to vulnerability analyst. Each had a corresponding video explaining the typical day of the role and what they like about their job.
“Students were able to try their hand at some cyber challenges decoding messages,” said Wilson.
“I now have a much better understanding of the types of jobs available in cybersecurity. More importantly, I have a better idea of some of the actual duties that are performed on the job,” said Amelia Sims of Waldorf, a student in Wilson’s class. “Several of the career paths appealed to me. If I had to choose one, it would be the crypto analyst. Decoding secret messages seems very interesting—I would really enjoy that type of work.”
For information on the NSA Day of Cyber program, visit http://nsadayofcyber.com/. To learn about CSM’s cybersecurity, computer science and information services technology programs, visit http://www.csmd.edu/programs-courses/cyber-center/.