Hands-on Cyber Academy

UK university students build cybersecurity skills at workshops

Dr. Keith Harrison shows a Lancaster University student additional steps needed to detect and remove malware from a system.

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. “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.

There is a well-documented cybersecurity skills gap in the UK, one that costs the UK economy an estimated £63 billion a year in lost additional GDP. According to the UK House of Commons Science & Technology Select Committee in 2016, 12.6 million people lack basic digital skills and 30 percent of the required computer science teachers have not been recruited. 

Raytheon is helping to address the growing cyber talent gap worldwide 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.

“Combating the cyber threat involves collaboration, technology and talent,” said James Gray, Raytheon UK Cyber and Intelligence managing director. “Our partnerships with academia and government help develop our nation’s next generation of cyber defenders.”

Students were taught by Raytheon 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 programmes, 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.”

Raytheon’s Cyber Academy workshops were first launched in the United Arab Emirates in 2016. Another Cyber Academy was held at Kuwait University during the first week of November. More will be offered in 2019 around the world. 

There’s no shortage of interest, and 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.”

Last Updated: 11/29/2018