Cybersecurity program trains students for future
Posted March 7, 2013 at 11:38 pm in News
An innovative cybersecurity program established in fall 2003 has grown exponentially.
The Viterbi School of Engineering‚Äôs master‚Äôs degree program for computer science with a specialization in computer security, which was established to help combat the growing threat of cyber attacks, is one of the country‚Äôs first programs focused on producing specialists in protecting and defending information and information systems.
In spring 2008, four students graduated and increased to five students in the spring of 2012. Currently,¬† 17 students are enrolled in the program.
The program has proven essential in building a cyber workforce that has recently been lacking in numbers and earned the university a designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Research by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
Director of the USC Center for Computer Systems Security Clifford Neuman said the concentration teaches students how to keep information safe from hackers.
‚ÄúThere is a need for extra focus on not just how to make the system work, but how to make the systems work in a more adversarial environment, which is what the Internet has become,‚ÄĚ Neuman said.
The program not only teaches students about the importance of cyber security through topics such as intrusion detection and ethical hacking, but it also provides students the necessary skills to become penetration testers and security engineers, among other roles.
Many students have already benefited from the innovative program. Hardik Ruparel, a graduate student in the computer science masters program, emphasized the importance of security on the World Wide Web.
‚ÄúYou cannot get away with not knowing about security,‚ÄĚ Ruparel said. ‚ÄúIt is fundamental in all aspects of computer science.
Anand Narayanan, a doctorate candidate in computer science in the computer security program, said that the program has real world applciations that is becoming increasingly more important.
‚ÄúIt is hard to establish a secret over the Internet,‚ÄĚ Narayanan said. ‚ÄúIt is not your friend and cannot always be trusted.‚ÄĚ
For example, in building an application, the user‚Äôs data is the responsibility of the person building it. However, any app on the Internet is vulnerable to be exploited.‚ÄĚ
The program is also offered to students nationwide through the university‚Äôs Distance Education Network, which allows students to work for corporations and other technology-oriented organizations that pay the student‚Äôs tuition.
Vijaya Pillai, a software engineer at Cisco who took the class through DEN last fall, said the program fit into her schedule well.
‚ÄúThe course opened me up to a lot of different aspects of security, such as different security devices, firewall and encryption,‚ÄĚ Pillai said. ‚ÄúLearning the course through DEN was very convenient ‚ÄĒ I could ask the professors questions in real time by just calling in.‚ÄĚ
The university‚Äôs Information Sciences Institute is also the headquarters to the Cyber-Defense Technology Experimental Research Laboratory Testbed, known as DETER. The on-campus facility, funded by the Department of Homeland Security, specializes in cybersecurity experimentation and testing. A sealed-off ‚Äúmini-Internet,‚ÄĚ created in 2004, allows for safe experimentation in security issues and enables users to conduct Internet simulation experiments in malicious code and a wide range of other network security issues.
Several students said the DETER lab is essential for hands-on education. Many graduates have gone on to work in companies such as Qualcomm, McAfee, Microsoft, Cisco and Symantec. Others students have gone on to work as IT consultants or develop security products.
‚ÄúWe got to simulate the whole environment and write real-world exploits and write safeguards against them,‚ÄĚ Ruparel said. ‚ÄúThe labs made me a better programmer.‚ÄĚ