As witnessed by recent ransomware cyber attacks in the national news, cybersecurity has rapidly become essential in order to protect businesses and government organizations, while working to ensure the industry keeps pace with the dizzying rate of technological change to keep data flowing and secure.
To help meet these challenges, The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of The University of Alabama System, has constructed a state-of-the-art Cybersecurity Lab, completed just in time for the Fall 2021 semester. The new space was unveiled today during a ribbon-cutting ceremony that will provide vital resources that position the UAH College of Business (COB) at the forefront of this important field.
“The Cybersecurity Lab will leverage the specialized cybersecurity programs in the College of Business to educate students and train-up well-rounded professionals with the knowledge and expertise needed to secure and defend businesses and organizations against cybersecurity threats,” explains Dr. Jason Greene, Dean of the UAH COB. “The lab will offer our students access to the latest cloud-based cyber technologies, as well as a state-of-the-art learning environment that fosters collaboration and a team approach to problem solving.”
The new capabilities within the COB are comprised of three functions that will complement one another to provide the advanced resources required to secure and defend against cybersecurity threats, including:
- Virtual Cyber Teaching and Research will provide students access to state-of-the-art cloud-hosted tools and environments featuring countless virtual machines and virtual network configurations as a hedge against technology obsolescence.
- Collaborative Teaching is designed to facilitate teaching via a student-focused, collaborative, hands-on learning laboratory that promotes team-based problem solving and analysis in identifying cyber threats, securing networks, complying with cyber standards and responding to cyber-related events in an organization.
- Digital Forensics includes forensic workstations, forensic imagers and other physical and virtual forensic tools to give students a unique hands-on experience in detecting, investigating and analyzing cyber breaches.
The projected growth of this industry is predicted to increase by as much as 28% through 2026 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), highlighting a need to meet the increasing demand for cybersecurity experts. This new space demonstrates UAH’s commitment to student engagement and innovation, while also meeting the requirements of the National Center of Academic Excellence.
Sparking student and faculty interest and research in cybersecurity is crucial to helping address the business and economic challenges facing society today and in the future. This lab will fuel experiential learning to enhance the COB and UAH as leaders in cybersecurity.
In addition, the new lab provides a venue for hosting team-based cyber events, such as “hackathons” and Capture the Flag competitions, facilitating community engagement through outreach events, workshops or seminars. These events will spread community awareness, while promoting home/business security, identity theft prevention, device security, IoT (Internet of Things) security, as well as payment and transaction security.
Most importantly, the new space provides a collaborative environment rather than static ‘front-of-room’ lecturing to promote learning through active interaction among students. The student tools are hosted in the cloud as well, ensuring access to future capabilities as a powerful hedge against technological obsolescence. In addition, the processes learned will be team-oriented with respect to problem solving through success-driven, cohort-based relationships, improving retention and student confidence.
Lastly, the Huntsville community’s investment in cybersecurity education to help build a capable cyber workforce will be served by a curriculum that covers a wide range of technical expertise, including cyber threat intelligence; incident response; evidence collection; risk mitigation and response; organizational recovery and response; fraud and fraud mitigation; governance; and protection of intellectual property. The UAH COB plans for instruction to be business-focused, while supporting a student population from diverse backgrounds and disciplines to meet real-world needs.
Dr. Greene points out how these methods will provide working professionals in particular with a leg up in the industry.
“Our graduate programs – our master’s in Information Systems and our master’s in Cybersecurity – will utilize the Cybersecurity Labs to give our students, who are primarily working professionals, an advantage in both the knowledge and skills that help them lead their organizations with the secure information and operations.”
Unveiling the new Cybersecurity Lab offers a unique opportunity to name this space as well. Organizations looking to support UAH’s cybersecurity efforts, while enhancing their associations with the University and increasing visibility, can take advantage of this philanthropic opportunity by contacting the UAH Office of Development.
“Our industry and community partners have emphasized the need for cybersecurity professionals at all levels of the organization,” Dr. Greene notes. “With the Cybersecurity Lab, our undergraduates will be better prepared than ever. Not only will they continue to gain cyber knowledge through their courses, but this lab opens up opportunities for hands-on experience with cyber tools that are so critical in protecting and detecting threats to business transactions, communications and projects.”
(Courtesy of UAH)