New Program Helps People Feel Secure

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Photo courtesy of careersincyber.com

By DALTON GRIJALVA

 

Have you ever gotten an email that says “Click here and you’ll get rich. Just kidding, your files are now encrypted and you now owe us a ransom of $350 in bitcoin”? 

 

Probably not. It’s usually not that obvious.

 

Hacking continues to expand, and it can be tough to be completely safe from hackers.

 

As a result, there’s a growing need for cyber security. The problem is that there is a lack of qualified people and programs to fill the demand.

 

Pima Community College soon will offer a Cyber Security Program to combat these threats. The program will be led by Chris Bonhorst, Academic Director of Information Technology, and Will McCullen, Advanced Program Manager for Centers for Excellence IT and Cybersecurity.

 

Their consensus on the issue was that everyone needs security, whether you are a small business or a large corporation.

 

Pima gets hit 64,000 times a week with the total right now at 6,000,000 hits. That does not mean they have been compromised. To prevent attacks, you always make sure you use a two-factor authentication system, never the same password

 

“We need to view the world entirely differently,” McCullen said. “It’s not just hacking, it’s social engineering. What can I do to manipulate your behavior?”

 

Currently, PCC is the host to a cyber warfare range, which is no holds barred and open to the community. Anyone can use it as long as there is a volunteer present. 

 

This is run by a non-profit cyberwarfare foundation and is a safe and legal way to hack. It is a hands-on approach for students as opposed to simulations done in the past. 

 

“You don’t train cops with squirt guns; same with cyber,” McCullen said. 

 

Some hands-on approaches include a malware lab, which contains 200 different viruses on one computer. The joke I made at the beginning is a real virus on this computer called “Wannacry.” 

 

This lab provides a whole playbook of what the virus did to better combat it. “(This is) not a place to do your banking,” Bonhorst said. 

 

Immediately next door is a data center with 10s of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. The network and Internet provider it runs on is also separated from the college.

 

Currently, Pima is building something that will simulate a real-world cybersecurity center. Half of the room will be dedicated to exercises such as “Capture The Flag,” a red (attackers) and blue (defenders) team scenario. 

 

The other half will be separated by a glass wall, structured as a moving parts classroom with laptops.

 

The benefit of this is that it will be one of a kind in Tucson, bringing in not only students but companies such as Raytheon Missile Systems. It will expose students to workforce interaction. Students who are seeking a degree in this field will also get a certificate and could have an entry-level job in cyber security within their first year. 

 

“(We are) looking to make this a fusion center,” McCullen said. That would bring in not only IT students but those studying criminal justice, law, health, etc. 

 

“Email is keys to the kingdom,” McCullen said.

 

“In this industry, the U.S. sucks at cyber security. Our first mission is to save Pima, our second is to save the nation,” Bonhorst said.

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