Building the cyber warriors of tomorrow

In addition to the Student Poster Presentations which will help introduce graduate and undergraduate researchers to the professionals attending our conference, Cal Poly Pomona Professor Dan Manson and lecturer Anna Carlin will speak about developing a more in-depth training program for the next generation of cyber warriors.

“We’re talking about what we’ve learned from five years of work,” says Carlin. In the beginning, few other schools were involved with digital forensics education; training was available primarily from vendors, and Manson and Carlin had not yet been introduced to HTCIA. “We felt like we were alone in what we wanted to do,” says Carlin.

As they continued to develop more classes, they also became more active in professional associations, including HTCIA. That gave them insights into what employers were looking for, and the skills students would need to meet the demand.

Workforce development through competition

“More companies want people who can secure and defend their networks,” says Carlin. “But you can’t just fill a position; you want to match students as best you can with the company so that they end up staying there for years.”

To get a true sense of students’ capabilities, Carlin and Manson encouraged them to start student clubs, including HTCIA’s first student charter: FAST (Forensic and Security Technology). They also helped to involve their students in the Western Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, a concept that they’re now working on expanding.

“We want to create a National Cyber League, which will be like the way professional sports are set up – going from a preseason to rounds of events between competing teams,” says Carlin. “The only way to get better at skills like the kind security requires, is to practice. So this is workforce development more than an academic exercise.”

The role of professional associations

Associations’ involvement in competitive activities is important. But they also serve a crucial role on their own: allowing students to develop networking skills. “Our HTCIA student charter has access to chapter meetings, and they’re not shy about inviting people they want to hear,” says Carlin.

Student-focused meetings might include a Career Night, on which four to five senior professionals gather on a panel to answer questions about what they do and what they look for – as well as challenges they faced along the way, and what they would’ve wanted to know when they were starting out.

At these kinds of events, Carlin says she makes the students split up and sit at tables with the pros, where they must collect at least one business card along with two unique things they learned about that person.

In fact, at one meeting, an employee from one of the Big 4 consulting firms liked the student so much that even though the student’s GPA didn’t meet their requirements, they asked for a resume.

The associations’ full-time professional members like the students’ enthusiasm, and they enjoy taking the time to help students out. The more involved students are, in turn – such as volunteering at association events – the more they transition from students to business professionals.

“We’re not a big school, so we have to work a little harder to get our students noticed by the best employers,” says Carlin. But that hard work has paid off, and she and Manson are glad to share their experiences with others who want more for their students as well.

To read more about the specifics of their presentation, read their abstract on the HTCIA Conference website. We hope to see you in Indian Wells!

Image: West Point Public Affairs via Flickr


4 Responses to Building the cyber warriors of tomorrow

  1. gatoMalo says:

    As a veteran I can tell you the military has many rules, regulation, chain of command but when it comes to developing Cyber Warrior this all has to change. Most hackers have no rules or regulation and when someone comes in the room they do not jump up and salute. Our military is so rigid that it may be hard to really get the right talent to do the job. You can train people how to use Net-Tools to do recon on the enemy, but as China has stated there is no dogma in warfare. We must be flexible, adaptable and must be able to think like a hacker. Hackers have no rules when you need to do something you do it, if you need software you can’t wait 3 months and make 12 requisitions you need it NOW.

    When your hacking the moment of opportunity sometimes happens in seconds not weeks and months, so the rigid structure of the military will have to adapt or fail.

    As to military offensive cyber capabilities Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz a four-star told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee that it is “conceivable” that the service could have taken out Libya’s SA-5 surface-to-air missiles using cyber weapons rather than iron bombs or missiles. I am sure our Military can do lot’s in the way of offensive strike but I’m talking about Cyber-Espionage, Cyber Intelligence gathering. Sneaking in silently and sitting deep inside the war room of China or Russia without getting caught that is the talent we need. Persistent attacks are the brute force way of getting the job done but the silent and slow hacks are the ones that we need to get the information.

    How long will it take to get a real Cyber Military team ready and working that’s hard to say maybe years. We need this talent now not a year from now. Maybe one solution is to work with hacktivist and other cyber talented people and learn from them what it takes and learn what really works. In cyberspace we need to think outside the box to get the job done. One solution is to use real hackers to do some of the work, some of these hackers can be converted to the Military but just don’t ask them to do 10 push-ups or salute.

    We have many talented people here in the US they are our Civilian Cyber Militia, lets use these people to help us. Some are just as patriotic as anyone but just cannot take the rigid structure of the military. We as a Nation need to work together because everyone is going after the US in cyberspace, let’s fight back anyway we can. This is of National Importance if we loose our technological edge in cyberspace the only thing we have is left is the best Pizza delivery in the world.


  2. […] Building the cyber warriors of tomorrow « High Tech Happenings. This entry was posted in Cyber U.S.A., Cyber Warfare. Bookmark the permalink. ← Chinese […]

  3. […] While the California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly) Pomona’s student Forensic and Security Technology (FAST) group had been in existence since 2008, it formalized its HTCIA charter in 2010. SoCal chapter president Chris Curran says, however, that it’s not just about having the charter – it’s also about supporting the students in their career paths. […]

  4. […] Anna Carlin, the instructor who coordinated the presentation, adds that the students themselves benefit in a variety of ways: not just with the ability to conduct more credible research, but also with exposure to the very professionals who are in a position to give them jobs or grants. […]

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