WMU partners to offer cybersecurity training


Cybersecurity attacks have evolved and multiplied over the years.

Computer viruses have grown into hacking attacks, which include malware, phishing and cross-site scripting that affect Americans every day across the country. Businesses are among the most commonly attacked entities, according to Jameka Williams, director of member engagement at Merit Network Inc., a nonprofit member-owned organization governed by Michigan’s public universities.

“Organizations are starting to realize and understand that cybersecurity is no longer an IT problem, but it is an overall business problem,” she said. “Now, organizations from an executive level are looking at strategies around shoring up their security posture so they are not the next organization on the nightly news that has been hacked or compromised with some sort of cyberattack.”

As a result, Merit Network is partnering with Western Michigan University to start a noncredit cybersecurity training course, which is slated to begin on Oct. 22.

Professors from the university’s Haworth College of Business and College of Engineering and Applied Sciences will work in tandem with Merit Network.

Alan Rea, a professor of business information systems in Haworth College of Business, has been teaching and researching information security for more than 20 years. He and Jason Johnson, a lecturer in computer science for the university’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, will be the instructors of the eight-week training program.

Merit Network will be providing a Michigan Cyber Range Secure Sandbox (MCRSS), which is a virtual network environment to facilitate safe cybersecurity training. The cybersecurity courses include:

  • CISSO – Certified Information Systems Security Officer

  • CPTE – Certified Penetration Testing Engineer

  • CPEH – Certified Professional Ethical Hacker

  • CDFE – Certified Digital Forensics Examiner

The courses will be a combination of online learning modules with lab-based experiments.

According to Williams, MCRSS is an air gap environment online where nothing can get in or out, so organizations can test applications with militia activities without jeopardizing or spreading to different computer networks and users.

MCRSS also helps to detect, prevent and mitigate cyberattacks. The program will allow students to conduct “live fire” exercises, which are simulations that test the detection and reaction skills of participants in a variety of situations.

“These courses are more than just memorization to pass an exam; we make sure students understand why they should approach various information security challenges,” Rea said.

Carol Bale, program manager for professional development at WMU, said the university is looking to provide educational opportunities to meet industry and job demands.

“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cybersecurity is one of the fastest-growing fields with job openings growing 28 percent in the next 10 years,” she said.

Once the eight-week training ends, there will be another round of cybersecurity training in January.

“WMU is raising the bar in providing cybersecurity education to a broader section of the state. The Cyber Range team is excited to work with the faculty to provide world-class educational experiences for their students,” said Joe Adams, vice president for research and cybersecurity for Merit Network. “Having the courses online while still providing a personal connection to faculty experts allows for a flexible-yet-consistent level of training.”

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