Colleges pitch in to help fight malware and cybercrime

Universities in Canada and across the world are doing their part to help subdue the rising tide of computer viruses and other online security concerns.

Companies and government organizations have contributed thousands of dollars and man-hours in the years-long fight against cyber criminals and malware. Traditional cybercrime opponents have gained a new ally: colleges. Universities in Canada and across the world are doing their part to help subdue the rising tide of computer viruses and other online security concerns.

Ottawa school sponsors cyberwarfare competition
To help encourage more young people to go into cybersecurity-related fields, Algonquin College earlier this month sponsored a mock hackathon, Metro Ottawa reported. The competition, held in conjunction with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, held mock trials in which the competition’s participants attempted to block hackers – in this case played by RCMP personnel – from infiltrating government and corporate data storage systems.

The event’s organizers told the news source that the competition serves a variety of purposes. One, many young people are not electing to go into cybersecurity-related fields, even though this will be a career skill that is in high demand now and will continue to be in the future.

“There aren’t many highly skilled people out there,” Patrick Ouelette, the competition’s organizer and coordinator of the college’s Computer Systems Technician and Technology Programs, said to Metro. “Those who do are are getting up there in age with no one there to replace them.”

In addition, the faux hackathon provides a more entertaining way to teach current and future security professionals about what it takes to keep a system secure, forcing them to rethink industry standards relating to layered security to better protect government and business information. Take firewalls for example. Metro reported that security experts rely on them to protect digital infrastructure. During the course of the competition, when those same professionals act like hackers and try to get around firewall protection, they can better gauge the effectiveness of their security measures.

British university opens new cybersecurity training center
In order to make sure there are enough cybersecurity professionals in the future, the University of Southampton announced on November 24 that it will be creating a research center exclusively devoted to cybersecurity, Computerworld reported. The program, funded through a £50,000 (approximately $80,000) grant, in intended to develop new technologies to better protect corporate and government data systems.

“Our well-integrated research portfolio links together aspects of internet privacy and trust, super-identity and access control, and secure hardware devices in one full circle,” said Professor Vladimiro Sassone, the university director leading the new center, according to Computerworld.

The new center is part of larger effort by the United Kingdom’s central government and universities in the country to better prepare organizations against the threat of cybercrime and to ensure there will be enough security professionals in the future. For example, the University of Bristol announced the creation of a program similar to the University of Southampton’s new directive in October, and the news source reported that at least five other higher-education institutions in Great Britain and Northern Ireland have recently pushed forward cybersecurity-related initiatives.

“The new [center] will give us the opportunity to further develop work we’ve been engaged in for quite some time in this crucial area of research – to foster innovation and provide top quality graduates in the field,” said Don Nutbeam, Southampton University’s vice chancellor, according to Computerworld.

What do you think are the best ways for universities to encourage and train young people to become cybersecurity professionals? Are colleges doing enough to prepare the next generation of security experts? Leave your comments below to let us know what you think about these issues!

Matt Williams

A self-proclaimed ‘tech geek’, Matt has worked in technology for a decade and divides his time between blogging and working in IT. A huge New York Giants fan, when not watching football Matt gets his game on playing Call of Duty with his friends and other tech bloggers.