Hands-on Cyber Academy

Workshops build cybersecurity skills at 3 international universities

Two students from the University of Gloucestershire, UK, complete cyber training modules during the first workshop.

The first thing Molly Dewis wanted to do after attending a cybersecurity workshop was to update all the settings on her PC. She had learned that she might have some holes in her system.

“There are so many files on your system, and they may not all be legitimate,” said Dewis, a first-year student at the University of Gloucestershire in the United Kingdom. “I’ve got to go through everything and check, oh, this is actually what it says it is.”

Dewis was one of 42 students at the University of Gloucestershire and 23 students at Lancaster University to attend two three-day Cyber Academy workshops hosted by Raytheon at the end of October in England. Eighteen students at Kuwait University participated in a five-day academy.

There is a shortage of nearly three million cybersecurity professionals globally, according to an October 2018 workforce study by (ISC)², a cybersecurity and IT security professional organization. The Asia Pacific region is facing the largest talent shortfall, with a gap of more than two million. There were an estimated 314,000 active openings for cybersecurity jobs in the United States alone as of November 2018, according to CyberSeek, an interactive tool that is funded through the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Raytheon is helping to address that growing worldwide cyber talent gap through its cybersecurity skills-building workshops. The educational workshops give students hands-on experience with cybersecurity techniques and methods to identify and address network vulnerabilities.

“The cyber threat crosses boundaries and borders and is a global security imperative,” said Dave Wajsgras, president of Raytheon’s Intelligence, Information and Services business. “We’re working side by side with distinguished universities and our allies around the globe to prepare the next generation of cyber defenders to combat real-world cyberattacks.”

Students at the Raytheon academies were taught by company experts and instructors from the Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security at the University of Texas at San Antonio. They learned intrusion detection and malware removal, among other topics.

“The most interesting part was probably malware detection, being able to identify and remove it,” said Chris Lee Watts, a third-year student from the University of Gloucestershire. “One example is one of the programs, an executable, you delete it, and it’s a process tree, but then within seconds it will be back, so you can’t just assume because you’ve deleted that executable, it’s not going to come back, because there’s backup processes that will tell it ‘we want to run it again.’”

James Boorman, a first year PhD candidate at Lancaster University, also found the malware removal segment to be one of the most interesting parts of the curriculum.

“It’s hard and dangerous to try and get yourself into learning malware analysis independently because you can really harm yourself,” said Boorman, who is also a Raytheon UK fellow. “With malware, you make a mistake and...you’re done, unlucky.”

Malware also topped the list of favorite topics in the Kuwait academy.

"Malware interested me the most because it is widely common and widely spread in our computers,” said Dalal Aljassem, a Kuwait University computer engineering student. “It can happen to anyone, and the person who doesn't know how to defend his network or doesn't know how to fight this malware is going to pay.”

Students in both the UK and Kuwait felt it was a national imperative to strengthen their cybersecurity in their respective countries.

“As a national university, we believe it is our responsibility to equip our students with the tools to overcome 21st century challenges,” said Dr. Hussein Al-Ansari, Kuwait University president. “Our partnership with Raytheon is a positive step toward preparing our students, and it’s aligned with the government’s cybersecurity strategy.”

Raytheon’s Cyber Academy workshops were first launched in the United Arab Emirates in 2016. More will be offered in 2019 around the world. And there’s no shortage of interest; there were waiting lists to get into the three latest academies.

“They are very eager to learn the subject matter,” said Dwayne Williams, a CIAS instructor from the University of Texas at San Antonio. “These students have been absolutely motivated … their ability to absorb what we’ve taught them and immediately implement it in the lab has been very impressive.”

Published On: 11/28/2018
Last Updated: 11/29/2018