Cedarville to Launch Cybersecurity Track in Fall 2016

Cedarville University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science is launching a cybersecurity track within the computer science major for the 2016-2017 school year. In a post-Edward Snowden, Apple v. FBI age, cybersecurity is in the news nearly every day, and Cedarville’s program will allow its students to be competitive in the computer science field.

According to Dark Reading, a cybersecurity news site, there is a lack in cybersecurity education. Of the top 10 computer science and engineering programs in the U.S. (out of 121 programs), none require a cybersecurity class to achieve a computer science degree, and three of the top 10 offer no cybersecurity classes at all.

But current sophomore, freshmen and incoming computer science students at Cedarville will now be able to study cybersecurity more in depth as a focus area for the computer science major. There are five classes in the cybersecurity track. Two of them, foundations of computer security and computer networks, will be required of every computer science major. The track will be instituted through a two-year process in which the first two electives begin next year and the third elective in the following year. These three electives include Linux system programming, software security and cyber defense.

Within the computer science major, students have the option to follow the computer graphic, graphic design, hardware, operations research, or the newly implemented cybersecurity track, each of which is between nine and 12 credit hours. Computer science majors can take classes from each concentration and are not required to pick a specific track.

Assistant professors of computer science at Cedarville Seth Hamman and Patrick Dudenhofer are working to earn their doctorates in cybersecurity with a vision to bolster Cedarville’s cybersecurity program. Hamman and David Gallagher, professor of computer science, have set a goal to attain certification from the National Security Agency (NSA) by next spring as a means of validating course curriculum at the standard of NSA, but attaining such certification could take a few years.

The need for cybersecurity

Hamman said nowadays almost everything connects on the Internet, from businesses and personal information to national defense, and each presents a susceptible target for a cyber attack.

“The payoffs are so high (for criminals) for being able to compromise a computer network,” Hamman said.

Gallagher said virtual crime rises as professional hackers realize the potential payouts and teenagers meddle with cyber crime, as they observe loopholes or a lack of safeguards.

Hamman said there is a great need for cybersecurity.

“We’re in the era of the wild west in the area of computer security,” he said.

The university has a relationship with the nearby Wright Patterson Air Force Base – a major cybersecurity hub – as well as the University of Cincinnati, through which future collaboration may enhance Cedarville’s cybersecurity program.

The local defense industry and nearby cybersecurity employers are looking for cybersecurity experts, Hamman said.

“There are tons of cybersecurity jobs right here in the state,” he said.

Gallagher said the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) at Wright Patterson Air Force Base renders an exceptional resource for Cedarville faculty as they construct their own cybersecurity lab.

“This is a perfect storm and a lot of the pieces are already in place to make it happen,” Gallagher said.

Students who specialize in cybersecurity are immensely marketable to future employers, Dudenhofer said, especially as jobs are growing in that department.

“Cybersecurity is not going away,” Dudenhofer said.

Hands-on experience

The new cybersecurity track will be lab oriented. Thus, it will focus on problem solving and take a forensics-type approach to provide a hands-on program. Ones and twos may not mean much for the average individual, but for students concentrating in cybersecurity, they will become a new language that’s vital to everyday computer operations. Dudenhofer said he supports the hands-on approach toward learning computer language.

“You can’t just learn languages by reading a book. You actually have to go into the culture and do it,” he said.

Students will have to program with low level assembly code, derive meaning from the code and solve related puzzles. Room 244 in the Engineering and Science Center will house a bank of computers specifically for cybersecurity classes, as well as labs to simulate real life cyber attack and defense sequences. Certain lab days will include stations where students can try to defend their own computers against targeted attacks.

However, the cybersecurity network will be physically unplugged from Cedarville’s network so as not to compromise it. Dudenhofer said isolated network scenarios are meant to simulate real world encounters and apply learned principles.

“We can have malware, viruses and attacking going on without affecting the rest of campus,” Dudenhofer said.

Through the knowledge of cybersecurity, an individual would, in essence, know how to take advantage of a system. Therefore, ethics play an important role in balancing power and responsibility. Dudenhofer said cybersecurity requires tremendous character and virtue because the means to defend against cyber attacks require that the operator be both knowledgeable in attack and defense.

In other words, in order to know how to defend a computer network, one needs to know how to attack it, Dudenhofer said, and in order to know how to attack a computer network, one needs to know how to defend it.

“We need Christians in cybersecurity,” Dudenhofer said.

Gabe Chester is a freshman global business and marketing major and reporter for Cedars. He loves music, sports, school and God.

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