With more and more information being used and stored online, cyber security and defense is all the more important.
For a student like Joshua Rivera, who served in the Navy and was working toward a degree after his service, it seemed like a …
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For a student like Joshua Rivera, who served in the Navy and was working toward a degree after his service, it seemed like a perfect and challenging fit.
“I started cyber defense at Red Rocks Community College when it was in its early days,” Rivera said. “Lots of education is based on theory, but this program is about hands-on experience.”
Red Rocks Community College has been a leader in the field with its Cyber Defense program, and now the college has been recognized for its efforts. The program has been designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Two-Year Education by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
“The goal is for us to prepare students, as best as we can, for a job in this field,” said Joe Murdock, Cyber Security Program Coordinator with Red Rocks, which has campuses in Lakewood and Arvada. “We emphasize the technological side of things and how to communicate that to people who aren’t in the field.”
Through President Obama’s Cybersecurity National Action Plan, the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Program is charged to raise the level of cybersecurity capabilities across the nation. To accomplish that, the NSA and DHS are partnering with academic institutions to enhance cybersecurity education.
The goal of the Academic Excellence program is to reduce vulnerability of the country’s infrastructure by bringing new people into the field. The designation is good for five academic years.
“This really gives the NSA stamp of approval to what we’re doing,” Murdock said. “We’re the first community college in Colorado to receive this designation and one of fewer than 200 colleges nationwide.”
The college offers degree and certificate programs — the degree is for full-time students and includes general education courses, while the certificate is for those working toward a certification. Students learn about everything from cyber defense policy to encryption and firewalls.
In addition to classes and job training, students can participate in the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, which provides a fun way to practice their skills.
“My favorite experience thus far has been working on the Attackerspace we are using to prepare for the competition,” wrote student Bruno Salvatico in an email interview. “It is a team effort and it takes a great deal of collaboration and learning from your teammates.”
In the competition, students compete to defend networks from professional hackers who are trying to breech security.
The Attackerspace is a space Red Rock’s team has built for training and practice.
“Any student in the program can use it when they need it,” Rivera said. “You develop a lot of different skills and learn about different job environments.”
Murdock and his students are excited at the possibilities that come with the Academic Excellence designation, and are doing more outreach with the business community and other schools.
For more information on the program, visit www.rrcc.edu/cyber.
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