It’s likely this is one of the few classes taught at TCC where the instructor openly attacks students’ work. Actually, that’s the entire point of the class. “I will be running active attacks,” instructor Ed Hawkins said during the lecture section of the four-hour long class.
The classroom has a very casual feel. You can tell these students are experienced. This Cyber Security Capstone class is filled with students nearing the end of their two-year program, and, like a well-oiled machine, the students start their prep work before class even officially begins. They start up computers and install updates.
The lecture section of the night class is fairly simple. Hawkins goes over ideas, and poses questions and scenarios about networking security and strategies. As this is a night class (5:30-10pm), most students work during the day. Some of them work in computer-related jobs. This gives students invaluable, real-life perspectives into the classroom discussions.
After lecture, the fun begins. Students break into groups and start working on their projects – the very ones that the instructor will be “attacking.” Walking around the classroom, you can see that each group chooses how to break down the work. One student is controlling the computer. One is recording each and every step the group makes. Others discuss virtual machines, DNS, SQL, DHCP and a host of other technical terms.
The capstone structure of this class has students working on projects all quarter with the instructor doing intrusions near the end of the class. Being clever students, they asked Hawkins what techniques or software he would use, and being a clever instructor, Hawkins declined to divulge that information. They’ll just have to make sure their virtual servers are up to the task.
Talking with students, most liked the night class structure.
“It’s great for working during the day,” said Joey Kirkham as he booted up his workstation.
Patrick Kelly, Taron Froh and Alex Mariano worked in a group as they discussed their interest in computers and desire to get a job. To bring in the current state of network security into the classroom, episodes of Security Now run in the background while the students work.
With the role that computers play in the lives of humans growing and the need for computer security in an era of hacking, the work these students are doing on a Thursday night will certainly pay off.
This is part of our In the Classroom series, where we visit different classrooms throughout the TCC community.