Interns Get Hands-On Experience in Cybersecurity

A group of students and faculty from one Ohio community college will spend the summer learning the skills they’ll need to fill those jobs defending against constant cyber attacks.

by Katie Wedell, McClatchy News Service / June 2, 2014 0

Jobs in cyber security are expected to grow 37 percent by 2022 as computer networks come under what one local AT&T manager called “24/7, 365” attacks from hackers.

A group of students and faculty from Ohio's Clark State Community College will spend the summer learning the skills they’ll need to fill those jobs defending against constant cyber attacks.

The program, paid for with a National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education grant, will put nine students and six faculty into hands-on internships at local companies including AT&T, LexisNexis, Peerless Technologies and Riverside Research. They’ll also take classes at Clark State’s Beavercreek campus, learning the theory behind the practical applications they are exposed to.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies estimated in 2013 that malicious cyber activity will cost the U.S. economy $100 billion a year. The potential for lost revenue and customer confidence has become apparent with recent breaches at Target Corp., JP Morgan Chase Bank and the IRS.

The non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center in California said there were 619 known data breaches nationally in 2013 in business, health care, education and government where about 57.9 million records related to personal and financial data were stolen or accessed due to security failures.

Demand for information security professionals is expected to be high in the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Analysts will need to come up with innovative solutions to prevent hackers from stealing critical information or creating havoc on computer networks.

“Every day you can pick up a newspaper and read about a breach,” said Brian Hale, Operations Officer in the Cyber Center of Excellence at Riverside Research. The company conducts outreach and education efforts nationwide to show youth the wide range of potential jobs available in tech industries.

Every network will be breached at some point, he said, it’s just a question of when.

“(Businesses) need cyber security professionals that can secure their data, do mitigation efforts and then respond to those breaches,” Hale said. “It’s becoming a broader and broader industry.”

AT&T program manager Mark Kelly, a guest lecturer with the group on Thursday, said companies are in need of young people to take up the torch of cyber security and continue innovating into the future.

“From a community standpoint, to be able to grow this kind of talent, you’re going to need these skilled people,” Kelly said.

As more companies move online, security has become a greater focus across every industry, said Matt McKeever, vice president of security and compliance for LexusNexis’ parent company, Reed Elsevier Technology Services, .

“(Cyber security) is definitely growing. There are a lot of jobs available, but it’s actually tough to find good people,” McKeever said.

The more local students can be exposed to experiences like this, the more likely they will be to take a job and remain in the region, said Reed Elsevier Vice President of Global Data Center Facilities Stephanie Singer. Singer oversees the company’s remote data center in Springfield.

Some of the students are part of Clark State’s cyber security and information assurance associate degree program, but others come from degree programs including computer networking, math and criminal justice.

“I think the interesting part is all the different disciplines you have in the room,” said assistant professor Greg Teets.

Criminal justice student Shaun Foor said he’d never thought of a job in cyber security until he took a class with assistant professor Ronda Black, who is doing a cyber security externship alongside the students this summer.

“Law enforcement is kind of stagnant right now,” he said, and thinks his job prospects are bright in the cyber security field.

Hale said this kind of hands-on experience is a way for those interested in technology jobs to learn about the specific roles they could play at real companies.

“I was contemplating getting into IT, I just didn’t really know where to go,” said student Bill Johnson.

“It’s hard for some people to conceptualize,” Hale said. “(The interns) can kinda see what local companies are doing.”

Part of the program will include a competition at Riverside Research where the participants will get to try their hand at hacking into a closed network and then learn how to defend against those attacks.

The faculty members see the externships as an opportunity to brush up on their skills and bring back real world perspective to their classrooms. Black, for example, will be spending time working with cyber security professionals at AT&T while Teets will do an externship at Riverside Research.

“It’s a great benefit,” Black said. “You do learn a lot being outside the classroom.”

©2014 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)