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Hacking Done Right: Breaking in for Cybersecurity


The last thing any company leader wants to hear is that someone has hacked into their network and obtained access to data that was once believed to be confidential and secure. But it happens every day. Realization that “this could happen to us” is motivating more and more businesses to seek and invest in the expertise of Certified Ethical Hackers.

Certified Ethical Hackers are professionals who are paid to test network, software, and hardware systems, and report back with an analysis of just how easy or difficult it was to gain entry to systems that are considered secure. Ultimately, their job is to help companies identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and put the right tools and systems in place to prevent unauthorized users from gaining access.

Students who are enrolled in Howard Community College’s (HCC) cybersecurity program are acquiring the skills and training they need to market themselves to prospective employers in pursuit of these technical, robust, and ever-evolving career opportunities. Athar Rafiq, manager of computer and cyber lab services at HCC, explains that any company that collects and maintains secure data can benefit from the services provided by Certified Ethical Hackers, with accounting firms, healthcare organizations, and software manufacturers being among the most common users.  Smaller companies, he says, are often the most vulnerable.

“Some companies will invest in new equipment and forget to reset the default password, which can be accessed by anyone who logs onto Google, types in the name of the equipment and then does a quick search for generic password information,” said Rafiq. “These are the types of technical settings that are often easily overlooked, and can also easily result in a significant and costly security breach.”

Among the hacking tools a student can invest in to advance their skills is learning the programming language Python, first introduced in the early 1990’s and designed to make it quicker and easier to learn and apply the “science” of hacking in professional and educational settings.

On Friday, November 13 from 6 to 10 p.m., HCC invites students, faculty, staff, local cyber security professionals and the community at large to participate in its second annual “PyNight.” Sponsored by Booz Allen Hamilton, the event presents a series of complicated, interactive, computer-based puzzles, challenging each participant to “hack the system” as quickly as possible to score points. A series of educational lectures and skill-building workshops will also be offered.

“PyNight is one example of how HCC is creating opportunities for our students to test their skills, learn new ones and make connections with other people who have an interest in cybersecurity,” said Rafiq. “The classes offered through our cybersecurity program, along with events like PyNight, are preparing our students for what is happening out there in the real world, whether their interests are focused on ethical hacking, networking, cyber forensics, web development, or general cybersecurity.”

PyNight is offered free of charge and will be held at Howard Community College in Duncan Hall. Sign up at

For more information on HCC’s cybersecurity program and other IT programs, visit

If you are interested in enrolling in courses on ethical hacking and cybersecurity, registration is now open for winter and spring classes! Winter term begins January 4, spring classes start January 30. View class schedules, apply, and register at

Topics: Career Focus
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