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University Cyber Consortium Starts Online Classes This Fall

With grant funding through VICEROY, a handful of universities in Massachusetts, Arizona, South Carolina and Texas will give students online access to cybersecurity classes to train more professionals for the industry.

Lines of green code forming a tunnel with the words "cyber security education" inside it in white font. Black background.
(TNS) — Northern Arizona University is part of a five-university consortium that has recently received a grant to improve cybersecurity education.

Students at each university will have online access to cybersecurity classes starting in the fall semester.

"Society has been very quickly moving into new territories, and then the type of remedies we had five, 10 years ago are not good enough, and that's essentially the environment we have," said Bertrand Cambou, professor of nanotechnology and cybersecurity at NAU. "I don't mean to be an alarmist, but recognizing the threat is also the first step."

The program, which is led by Northeastern University and also includes the University of Texas-Austin, the University of Houston and the University of South Carolina, received the grant through VICEROY (Virtual Institutes for Cyber and Electromagnetic Spectrum Research and Employ). It is funded through the Griffiss Institute in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate and the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense.

"Scholarships associated with the program will support participation of ethnically and economically diverse undergraduate students and ROTC cadets over a two-year period," according to a press release from NAU. "The program also will provide DoD-related undergraduate research, capstone and internship opportunities."

Each university will start by bringing what work, personnel and research they already have and Cambou said NAU was in the process of expanding its cybersecurity program by adding two new professors at the start of the next school year.

Cambou develops cybersecurity for NAU and works on cybersecurity fraud for the Air Force during the summer. He and James Palmer are the project's principal investigators (PI) at NAU — Cambou described James as the "expert on education."

He made sure to note that this is a wider group effort at NAU that "each have a piece to contribute."

Cybersecurity is an in-demand career at the moment. Cambou mentioned program alumni who now work in Tucson, Colorado and even Silicon Valley.

"In our country, because cybersecurity is a problem, we also have hundreds of thousands of job openings. This is one of the fastest-growing areas," he said.

The United States is "falling behind" on cybersecurity, he said, in part because it has not been as much of a focus as it needs to be.

"The situation is the way of life is becoming more and more online," he said. "We buy online, [do] finance and communications. Then at the same time, you have all the threats. All the organized criminals, foreign countries attacking us."

He added: "Cybersecurity is essentially stretched because we use cyber more and more, and the securities less and less because it's too broad."

Cyber threats overall are also becoming greater, he said, noting that power grids and hospitals were among those vulnerable to attack.

"The threats are much more than what they used to be 10 years ago, when the threat was somebody reading your mail," he said. "Here you have people stealing your money, affecting your life, shutting down things — which means the stakes are higher than ever...and this is just the beginning."

The university's cybersecurity program started in 2016.

"It's a wonderful team we have," Cambou said. "On and off we have about 25 researchers in the lab, several of my colleagues are involved. We have a strong group of graduate students — which is a lot of fun."

"The big picture is there are a lot of technologies we can bring," he added. "...At the university, we need to look at what's next, we need to bring technology that's ahead of the need."

It's a lot for students to learn, he said, requiring a baseline of mathematical knowledge, as 60 percent of his classes are math.

Cambou described it as "education that is more demanding than what the vast majority of what students want to do."

The program focuses on cybersecurity for engineering (which he described as "getting into the guts of it and finding real solutions to the problem"), rather than on the user end.

"The vast majority of universities are offering what students like, which is more on an application standpoint," he said. "...In this field, that's not what we need. We need people who are going to be willing to tackle the tough, engineering things...not in a user standpoint but how to essentially get into the deep detail."

Some of NAU cybersecurity research focuses Cambou mentioned included nanotechnology, developing cryptographic protocols and protecting from quantum computer attacks. As of January, Cambou said, Intel has been financing part of their research and they have other industry partners such as Lockheed Martin.

"On every device you have, you use components. They each are different and we can actually use that fingerprint to authenticate, to protect, and we developed technology connecting each device to security," he said of the nanotechnology research.

He also mentioned that the department has been "prolific" in its publications and that it had 60 granted and pending patents.

Students in the program come from a variety of fields: electrical and computer engineers, computer scientists, physicists. Cambou also noted that they have diverse backgrounds. About half the team are women and they have several Hispanic, Navajo and Asian researchers as well, he said.

"When you have these multi-discipline [students], they have to work together," he said. "...They have to enjoy interacting with each other, helping each other. Some of the research programs, the students are very isolated, but then, of course, it becomes a problem when they get the job, which very often requires this kind of partnership."

More about NAU's cybersecurity program is available at

©2022 The Arizona Daily Sun (Flagstaff, Ariz.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.