By Robert Gardner
A 10-WEEK ACADEMIC BOOTCAMP IN
N.Y. PREPARES THE NEXT GENERATION OF INTERNET SECURITY PROFESSIONALS.
The requirements for this summer course include the usual
lectures, assignments—and weekly eight-mile runs. The
Advanced Course in Engineering (ACE) Cyber Security Boot Camp,
offered through Syracuse University and held at the U.S. Air
Force Research Laboratory in Rome, N.Y., is not a typical
undergraduate engineering course. Now in its second year,
it is a 10-week, intensive immersion into cyber security issues
with a focus on problem solving in a real-world environment.
To that end, students spend time attacking and defending actual
computer networks and work at an internship.
"Faced with a problem, engineers must develop a solution
on time with no excuses, no extensions, and no exceptions,"
says ACE Director Kamal Jabbour of the course's teaching
philosophy. The policy on late assignments: "One report
late: zero; two reports late: good bye!" Such stringent
rules mirror the unforgiving conditions students will face
when trying to secure computer networks against hackers and
The 2004 ACE class comprised 20 men and six women from 25
colleges in 17 states. Undergraduates and military personnel
predominated. Over half the students were in ROTC programs.
Among the civilians were fellows from the National Science
Foundation Scholarship for Service Cyber Corps program, and
other science and engineering students. All of them were interested
in careers in the burgeoning cyber security field.
The ACE class week begins on Monday with a six-hour lecture
covering a cyber security topic such as legal issues, security
policy, digital forensics, or network security. The lectures
are conducted by professionals from academia, industry, and
the military. The students then get their problem for the
week, the solution of which they must detail in a report due
the following Monday at 8 a.m.; "not 8:01 a.m., or you
get a zero," says David Aparicio, a 2003 ACE graduate
and second lieutenant in the Air Force.
"I've never written or run so much in my life,"
Aparicio, a 2003 electrical and computer engineering graduate
of Baylor University, says of his time in ACE. "I looked
at all the reports I'd written over the 10 weeks and
I had 210 pages." His hard work paid off: He was named
class valedictorian and was tapped this past summer to testify
at the House Committee on Science and Technology's hearing
on Cyber Security Education.
To remind students of the value of leadership and the relevance
of what they study, Jabbour showed a documentary about September
11. "I showed [them] the documentary as a reminder of
why they are here."
Robert Gardner is Associate Editor of Prism Magazine.