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Students who choose to study cyber defense and security at HCC benefit from cutting-edge technology and lab facilities, experienced faculty, articulation agreements, and extracurricular competitions. “We are a leader in the community college environment for cyber security educational opportunities,” says Scott Stefanoski, HCC’s information assurance laboratory manager.
Since cyber security encompasses a broad set of discrete technologies, capabilities, and services, the University System of Maryland’s cyber task force and others treat it as a multidisciplinary science. Likewise, HCC’s information assurance curriculum spans several academic divisions.
Credit programs for students who want to transfer to four-year colleges include network security administration, information technology, computer support technology, computer forensics options, PC network maintenance, and Cisco certified networking. HCC is establishing articulation agreements for credit transfer, and participates on a statewide college task force to develop a cyber/computer science articulation program.
Industry certifications, such as Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP), Certified Computer Examiner (CCE), and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) enable many first-time and returning students to quickly enter the workforce or enhance their careers.
In addition to technical skills, HCC provides students with the ethical and communications training helpful in gaining security clearance that is often required of our region’s cyber security workforce, and for success in our increasingly global and digital business environment, including: business ethics, business communications, international education, virtual management, and critical languages such as Farsi, Hindi, and Chinese.
Cyber competitions enhance the learning experience by allowing students to participate in simulated real-life scenarios, where they have to defend a network from a team of professional hackers (see Matthew Spriesterbach profile). A dedicated cyber lab, with cloud-based technologies that permit access locally or from remote locations, lets students experiment with malware, viruses, worms, and ethical hacking.
HCC is in the design phase of a new science, engineering, and technology (SET) building that will house a cyber lab with the latest technology, as well as facilitate collaboration, creativity, and learning between networking, forensics, and engineering students.
“Cyber security touches many areas and tasks, such as developing software, creating websites, and managing networks,” says Sung Lee, HCC’s director of student computer support.
“A setting that encourages collaboration and enhances program delivery will give the students broader preparation for careers in fields addressing STEM workforce shortages."
When he sits down with his teammates to defend his "employer’s" network from cyber attacks, Matthew Spriesterbach doesn’t wear a bulletproof vest. He comes armed for the cyber competition with the knowledge and experience he’s gained at HCC, including the critical ability to react thoughtfully in a high-stress situation.
Spriesterbach participated on one of HCC’s successful cyber competition teams. Warming up for these competitions requires intense preparation. Students must attend two practices per week throughout the semester.
In spring of 2012, after facing off against seven other university and community college teams, HCC advanced to the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition’s Mid-Atlantic finals – the only community college to do so. "It was the best learning experience I’ve ever had," says Spriesterbach.
The finals were hosted at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). "The tension was extreme," he says. "For two days we were handed a
worst-case scenario to protect a hospital network – shoring up the servers and fighting off a team of professional hackers launching malicious attacks."
Although the HCC team didn’t claim the top prize, they competed well and experienced a great learning opportunity. "Another advantage of the competitions is that they are a networking venue, where employers observe and interview students," says Scott Stefanoski, HCC’s team advisor.
At one of the competitions, Spriesterbach met the Towson University team members and the chairperson of their security program. He later transferred from HCC to Towson and is now working on a bachelor’s in computer science security. This cyber warrior’s latest victory is qualifying for a scholarship from Towson through their CyberCorps program funded through a National Science Foundation grant.
"I appreciate the opportunities HCC classes and competitions opened up to me," he says.