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rom Macy's and Target customers to Sony
Pictures executives and even the U.S.
State Department, no one has been safe
from cyber intruders in recent years. Computer
hackers, determined to steal state secrets,
credit-card information or salacious emails, are
wreaking havoc on networks around the globe.
Who will stop them? Cybersecurity specialists,
that's who! And, Middlesex is preparing the
next generation of high-tech warriors to
enter the fray.
Approximately 100 "superheroes-in-training"
are enrolled in MCC's Cybersecurity degree and
certificate programs. They are learning how
to secure computer networks and stop cyber
villains in their tracks.
But, they don't need masks, capes, or X-ray
vision. And their high-tech "Batcave" is a new
state-of-the-art Cybersecurity Lab on the fourth
floor of the Pollard Building on Middle Street in
downtown Lowell.
MCC's Cybersecurity Program was
born in the fall of 2014, following a
review of the college's IT program
by Kathleen Sweeney, Dean of
STEM (Science, Technology,
Engineering and Math),
and Donald Brady,
Assistant Dean
of STEM.
"We realized we
were not giving
students what
they needed to be
competitive in the
workforce," said
"The FBI predicts
cybersecurity eventually
will become the number
one threat against the
U.S.," added Brady.
"The U.S. Department of
Labor projects computer
security specialists'
employment to grow by 22 percent through
2020, a faster-than-average outlook," he
explained. "They also project more than
65,000 new jobs requiring cybersecurity
skills this decade."
Brady and Sweeney are quick to point out the
creation and evolution of the Cybersecurity
Program was a team effort. Long-time Computer
& Engineering Technology Professor Mohammad
Moghimi was the driving force behind the
curriculum development and creation of the lab
specifications, they explained. STEM associate
professors Syeda Ferdous Begum and Ryan
Fried also provided key input.
"We have built the program around Mo's
knowledge and insight," Sweeny said. "It is his
legacy, and his expertise was instrumental to
getting it up and running."
The first part of the transition was to sunset
the college's former Computer, Software
and Networking Technology, and IT General
Studies degree programs. They were replaced
with the new Cybersecurity Transfer Program,
which provides a path for students to earn an
associate degree and either enter directly into
the workforce, or transfer to a four-year school
to earn a bachelor's degree.
The program also offers an Entry-Level
Certificate, and an Advanced Certificate
designed for students who have worked one
year or longer in network administration,
Brady explained.
To create the new program, Middlesex
used grant funding from BATEC (Broadening
Advanced Technological Education
Connections), headquartered at UMass Boston
and sponsored by the National Science
Foundation. Support also came from MCC's
portion of a $20 million U.S. Department
of Labor STEM grant awarded to the
commonwealth's 15 community colleges, and
a $117,086 Massachusetts Skills Capital Grant
to build the program, and subsequently the
Cybersecurity Lab.
The Cybersecurity Program was also crafted
with input from MCC's IT Advisory Board,
which is made up of local industry leaders from
Mitre Corp. and MIT Lincoln Labs, among
others. The curriculum guidelines were
established by the NSA, U.S. Department
of Homeland Security, and Centers of
Academic Excellence in Information
Assurance/Cyber Defense.
"Graduates of this program will be prepared
to find entry-level employment as information
security analysts, or to transfer to a four-year
program," said Brady.
"Career opportunities are open to students
with AS, BS and advanced degrees in secure
configuration, operation and analysis of
enterprise computer networks, including
infrastructure devices, network services, and
the servers upon which they run," he said.
Once the redesigned curriculum was set,
the next step was to establish a dedicated
computer lab, where Cybersecurity students
could practice their programming skills in a
controlled environment. In a "cyber lab" setting,
students work to write secure programs, and
others work to break into those programs a
process Sweeney likes to call "ethical hacking."
So, last March, Sweeney and Phil Sisson,
Provost and Vice President of Academic
& Student Affairs, visited Moraine Valley
Community College outside of Chicago to
observe their cybersecurity program, which
Sweeney said is the "pinnacle of
cybersecurity education."
When they returned to campus, Sweeney
and Sisson opened a dialogue with faculty
and staff, and began working on building
MCC's Cybersecurity Lab. It was completed in
The new lab's two classrooms, mirror images
of each other, contain 18 computer workstations
Cybersecurity Lab
Helps Train
Next Generation of High-Tech Warriors
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