Zander Work

Zander Work presents to a group of students preparing for a cybersecurity competition. 

There are two good reasons to study cybersecurity, says Zander Work, a freshman in computer science at Oregon State University.

The first reason? Opportunity.

“There is a lot of availability right now,” Work said.

He’s right. By the time Work is entering the job market the shortage of cybersecurity professionals is estimated to be 1.8 million, according to the International Information System Security Certification Consortium.

The second reason? It’s fun.

“I find it super interesting. It's very exciting and fast paced, so you learn new things every day,” he said.

Cybersecurity at Oregon State has been growing rapidly over the last three years. In 2015, the first class was offered — cleverly named “Defense Against the Dark Arts,” after a class in the Harry Potter book series. It was a collaboration with Intel Security in which field experts taught the lectures for the course.

Terri Fiez, who spearheaded the collaboration, said at the time:  “The partnership with Intel Security on this first course is a great example of what can be accomplished with academic and industry collaboration. We see it as just the first step to building a world-class program in cybersecurity that will provide major benefits to Oregon companies and the state overall.”

Although Fiez has moved on to University of Colorado Boulder, the plans to build a cybersecurity program continued to move forward. Currently there are five cybersecurity faculty members who offer 10 classes for undergraduate and graduate students.

The undergraduate courses introduce all the basics of security including cryptography, basic attacks, security defenses, and network security. The “Defense Against the Dark Arts” course was videotaped when it was taught on campus and is still being offered as an online course. In fact, all of the undergraduate cybersecurity courses will eventually be offered online and available to students in the computer science postbaccalaureate program. (See related story, “Meeting industry needs.”)

Although Work is not able to take the cybersecurity courses until he has been accepted to pro-school, he has found plenty of opportunities to practice the cybersecurity skills he learned on internships while he was still in high school. He works as a security analyst for the Office of Information Security on campus, and he is president of the OSU Security Club. Work and five other members of the club will be participating in the Cyber Defense Competition organized by the Department of Energy on April 6-7, 2018.

Work has a passion for getting more people involved in cybersecurity and co-founded the NW Cyber Camp with Charlie Kawasaki, CTO of PacStar, and Amelia Kawasaki, a senior at Lincoln High School in Portland. The camp’s purpose is to introduce high school students to cybersecurity. It started in Portland and this year will expand to Corvallis and Bend.

“This is a really great way for me to give back to the community and help teach others about important concepts in cybersecurity that apply to everybody and not just people directly involved in the field,” Work said.

Outreach to the community

Beyond providing education to cybersecurity majors, the faculty members are reaching out to students in other majors, the general population, high school students and computer professionals.

Glencora Borradaile, associate professor of computer science in the College of Engineering, offers a popular course called “Communications Security and Social Movements,” in which she teaches how to use privacy-enhancing online communication tools, and explores the importance of computer and internet privacy for social movements. She also offers hands-on training in computer security for the general public through the Civil Liberties Defense Center Digital Security Program.

This summer, Rakesh Bobba, assistant professor of computer science in the College of Engineering, will be teaching the Corvallis NW Cyber Camp through Oregon State’s STEM Academy with Work’s assistance. They will cover topics such as cyber threats, cybersecurity principles, cyber ethics, and basic Windows and Linux security policies and tools. The camp will also include a networking reception with cybersecurity professionals and businesses.

The College of Engineering is also working to develop a new certificate program for professionals that will be taught as a combination of online courses and in-person instruction at the Portland campus. The intent is to better support and partner with Portland technology companies.

“Cybersecurity is really growing at Oregon State, and I’m excited about the impact we will have for students, whether they are undergraduates, graduate students, high school students, professionals, or the general public,” Bobba said.