Saturday, July 23, 2016

Hackers beware: Alfred State students are on the case

In today’s world, there are computers at every turn and people have come to rely on devices for commerce, communication, transportation, and virtually every aspect of their lives. While this sort of convenience has its upsides, it may also mean a dream environment for hackers, and have the potential to turn into a nightmare for everyone else. That’s why Alfred State students are looking to thwart that criminal activity.
Recent examples of massive data breaches include: 145 million records stolen from eBay in 2014, 80 million accounts compromised at Anthem health insurance in 2015, 76 million bank records taken from JP Morgan Chase in 2014, and 56 million debit and credit cards compromised in 2014 at Home Depot.
This has led to a heightened awareness of vulnerabilities among the public, and a greater demand for professionals who can stop these attacks. This requires education and training, which Alfred State is providing in order to produce professionals who can help make the world more secure from hackers.
Formerly known as “information security and assurance,” the college’s Bachelor of Technology degree in cyber security is designed to prepare graduates to enter the workforce as an information security professional, with a special emphasis in network and host security, secure programming, secure database applications, mobile device security, and cloud security. Courses ranging from security to programming to language sequences help these students to meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s information security industry.
One of the reasons that Alfred State is such a terrific place for studying cyber security is the fact that students aren’t just learning the theory. They’re putting it into practice building networks, firewalls, access control lists, and more.
“In my classes, when I tell you to build a network, I expect you to build a network,” said Scott O’Connor, associate professor in the Computer and Information Technology Department and coordinator of the cyber security program. “The students are building an active directory with 16 servers running in our net lab environment and it’s running off a hypervisor, which is exactly the same thing they would do if they got a job working at a corporation.”
Students also perform security audits of the various buildings on campus. In their final semester, they are required to take a semester-long internship in which they complete supervised field work in a selected business, industry, government, or educational setting.
Furthermore, Alfred State has a long-standing Cisco Academy affiliation and in the past year became one of the first Palo Alto Networks Academies in the world.
Outside of the curriculum, the college also has a student club called the Alfred State Information Security Team (ASIST). This club encourages the exploration of topics related to information security and ethical hacking. ASIST also features weekly presentations that all students are encouraged to attend.
Additionally, ASIST students have honed their skills in a number of cyber defense competitions, such the CyberSEED: Cybsersecurity, Education, and Diversity Challenge Week, and the Northeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NECCDC).
This past December, the club hosted a Cyber Security Capture the Flag Competition, in which four schools participated. The competition allowed participants to understand the technology and thought process of hackers, while also sharpening their security skills and learning new techniques.
With so many opportunities for learning, it’s safe to say that Alfred State is doing its part to produce graduates who are well prepared to help make the cyber universe safer.
“Through their hands-on learning experiences, their internships, the competitions, the security audits, and more, our students are receiving the knowledge and experience that employers are seeking,” O’Connor said. “They know what to expect on the job because they’ve done it already here, and that knowledge and experience will only grow and, as a result, further serve our field’s mission of making the world safer from cyber warfare.”