Robust Technology Supports Higher Education Cybersecurity Training Programs

Robust Technology Supports Higher Education Cybersecurity Training Programs


At the Massachusetts Bay Community College College of Cybersecurity Education, a secure virtual environment is vital to face-to-face and remote learning, say Shamsi Moussavi, director of the center, and Michael Lyons, CIO of the university. Photograph by Shawn Henry.

This approach is essential to support distance learners.

“They have the ability to work from anywhere. With cloud availability, they can work on this network at any time, day or night, “he says. The university uses VMware vSphere and students install VMware Workstation on their laptops.

This, in turn, allows all students to have hands-on experience with the tools and techniques of cyber defense.

“If I’m teaching pen testing, I’ll have students create a small network of attacks on their own personal computers,” he says. Using VMware, “maybe they’ll have three or four machines and a Windows server, and they’ll all be able to connect to the network so they can try to hack each other. If they blow something up, they can always go back to a snapshot next to vSphere.”

At Syracuse University, too, virtualization supports remote learning. “We have open computer clusters for virtual machines running in the cloud or on special servers in the university’s data center,” says Professor Shiu-Kai Chin.

“We have Dell Blade servers and Apple workstation clusters, and students work on approved laptops, usually high-end Dell machines with an operating system and CPU capable of running virtual machines, with the necessary memory, the enough RAM and hard disk space, probably 12 gigabytes of RAM and at least 500 gigabytes of hard drive or solid state, “says Chin.

LEARN MORE: How can immersive learning be used in hybrid classrooms?

Up-to-date physical lab spaces replicate real-world scenarios

While many schools seek to support distance learning students, face-to-face education continues, and when it comes to cybernetics, physical spaces are important. Rose State has its cybersecurity training center and San Bernardino also has a physical lab.

The MassBay program also includes a physical space that aims to recreate the technology that students will find in the corporate environment.

“We could call it a switch, but when you look at it, there’s a system board, it has a hard drive, it has memory. It runs a really specific application. In the lab, they can break some of the mysticism around technology. It breaks these barriers, “says Lyons.

The school recently secured $ 1.2 million in grants from the National Science Foundation to support student learning. Nearly half of that funding “is helping us create a cyber range, a secure virtual environment that allows students to practice cybersecurity exercises without affecting other networks,” says Professor Shamsi Moussavi, director of the Education Center at MassBay cybersecurity. Cisco switches and Dell servers support these exercises, he says.



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