Home » Technology » Bridgewater State CyberSec Program raises the bar for applied training

Bridgewater State CyberSec Program raises the bar for applied training

A new approach in cybersecurity education could help to produce cyber experts who are qualified and have real-life experience.

As part of computer science degrees, colleges and universities now offer cybersecurity courses for undergraduates. These programs are often lacking in hands-on experience with cyberattacks.

Steve Zuromski CIO at Bridgewater State University. To fill this gap, officials created a unique program of cyber training.

Even in computer degree programs, many students do not understand the importance of this training. The unique approach bridges that gap by giving students practical experience.

“We understand that cybercrisis is a serious national, and frankly, global, crisis. Our role is to play a part in this. That is where we fit in — building and diversifying the talent pipeline in Massachusetts,” Zuromski told TechNewsWorld.

Cyber training for all ages

Michelle Stanfield is the director of Bridgewater’s Cyber Range. She explained that cyber training does not only target university students. It is not just a resource that is available to students seeking degrees, but it is also a tool for the whole community.

The staff of the cyber facility works with various municipalities as well with anyone looking to upgrade their career through its certification program. Cyber Center staff also work with K-12 programming in order to familiarize students with cybersecurity as early as possible.

Stanfield said to TechNewsWorld that “they have the chance to learn and to be exposed to a new field in which they may know nothing.”

Bridgewater State’s Center for the Advancement of STEM Education is included in this cyber program called CASE. Bridgewater State created a module specifically for high schoolers who are able to come to the Cyber Range lab and participate in an immersive learning experience for 4 to 5 hours.

Zuromski says that Bridgewater’s Cyber Range (also known as the SOC) and its Security Operations Center (SOC), serve two distinct purposes.

The Cyber Range exists only in virtual form. Students and other groups can train in this protected environment. The lab simulates real-world attacks by creating different cybercrisis scenarios. The lab allows users to practice in a virtualized environment that is safe and does not allow them to harm anything.

The SOC is a separate facility located on campus that was designed in collaboration with CyberTrust Massachusetts. This center is staffed by CTM staff and Bridgewater cyber students. It monitors events live from local governments and non-profits.

Cybersecurity Bootcamp Simulations to Prepare for the Real World

The Cyber Range is a five hour mockup that will be hard to forget for participants and students from outside organizations. Zuromski said that it also depends on the students’ interest in cybersecurity.

They are a cybersecurity team in a video game. Soon, the company is attacked by ransomware. They arrive at Bridgewater State. They sit down and then an attack occurs. The lights change from green into red. Desks begin to shake, causing a feeling of panic.

They will learn how the attack happened. After that, they must make a report and a plan to the CEO. Zuromski explained that the plan should include the details of what happened, the steps to prevent it from happening again and whether or not the company is responsible for paying the ransom.

It is an extremely modern training facility. Not only can we train people on site, but also remotely. He said, “We can reach a large audience and simulate what it’s like for corporate clients.”

Bridgewater Cyber training on-premises offers students the opportunity to gain practical experience working in a SOC. Students get a high-quality cyber education that is affordable and accessible. At the Cyber Range, they gain experience in a safe virtualized setting. Before they can graduate, they must go into the SOC to get real-life experience.

“Plus, this is beneficial to those nonprofits and municipalities that didn’t have protection from the start. Zuromski said that it was a win for everyone.

State-of the-Art Cyber Training Facility

The 1,200-square-foot range includes 24 workstations with dual monitors. The project cost almost US$4million and was funded by federal, state and local governments.

The facility includes stadium-style seating, an 18-foot by seven-foot ultra-high-definition video wall, video cameras throughout, and confidence monitors on the sides and back.

In the rear, a control room is occupied by students or professional staff who help to control the theatrics of the room. The lighting integrated into the ceiling grid at the back and throughout the room creates a halo around the giant video screen.

We have integrated the lighting all around the ribbon. There is also a banner with the ribbon on top. Zuromski explained that all of the elements were designed to create an immersive experience for cybersecurity training.

Expanding Cyber Training Programs

Stanfield said that Bridgewater will be launching its catalog for external audiences this summer. That new program will include an extensive catalog of experiences from cyber team sins — an activity where teams come together to figure out how to solve anything from ransomware to DDoS attacks.

“We fully intend to also be able do individual training. We will also be able offer individual training, such as if companies believe that their security professionals require a particular skill.

Zuromski pointed out that the hard-core academic aspect of cybersecurity has also grown. The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education has recently approved the offering of a full curriculum in cybersecurity as a degree.

More than 200 applicants for the fall bachelor’s program have applied to the university.

Editor’s note: Images featured in this post are provided by Bridgewater State University.