MIDWEST CITY — In 2010, it was discovered that Iran's nuclear development program was temporarily crippled — not by bomber attacks or other traditional means of war, but by a mysterious computer virus known as Stuxnet.
Many computer experts believed the virus to be a “military weapon” used against Iran by an unknown country, possibly America. Stuxnet is just one example of an ever-increasing “cyberspace” field of battle, and of the new fleet of cyber security experts needed to fight the battle.
Rose State College is on the front lines of the effort to recruit and develop these needed experts and recently received a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The money will provide 28 scholarships and is part of a “nationwide effort to increase cyber security graduates,” Rose State professor Ken Dewey said.
The program also partners with the prestigious cyber security program at the University of Tulsa. Students who do well in the Rose State program will have an opportunity to earn scholarship money at Tulsa, where they will receive advanced training and a chance to earn more advanced degrees.
Dewey started the program at Rose State in 2004 with 75 students. That number has grown to more than 600 enrolled today.
“The job market is huge and is only going to get bigger,” Dewey said. “Just look at smartphones alone. Every time a new one comes out, the technology changes, and there are new security issues.”
The professor recently submitted the resume of a graduate from Rose State's two-year program to potential employers. Within one day, the student had a job offer from Dell Computers.
“Dell, Chesapeake, OG&E, Tinker, the FAA, they are all hiring kids from our program,” Dewey said.
But beyond the ever-growing need for cyber security experts to secure Fortune 500 company secrets, there is a need for able experts to enhance America's national security. Rose State is in a unique position to help since the school is the only community college in the country with all six federal certifications in cyber security, Dewey said.
“Our better students will have a chance at working for the National Security Agency, the CIA, FBI and Homeland Security,” Dewey said. “What happened to the Iran nuclear reactor is a great recent example of how viruses are being used. What better way to shut down their program than to disrupt the reactor computer
Cyber security experts are trained to not only defend against cyber attacks but also about how to be the attacker. During their time in the Rose State program, students learn such things as how to break passwords, capture network traffic and probe systems for security concerns. One of the program's bigger projects involves one student developing a secure network while another tries to penetrate it.
“Before our students start taking our upper-level courses, they have to pass an OSBI background check,” Dewey said. “These aren't the kinds of things we want to be teaching to the bad guys.”
Dewey said students who graduate from the Rose State program are “job-ready.” The top students will go on to Tulsa. Those who do well will be sought by the most prestigious government agencies in the country.
“We had a student named Chad Johnson that started at the vo-tech in Midwest City,” Dewey said. “He came to our program and did well and went on to Tulsa where he finished first in his class. He went on to work for the Department of Defense. He had somewhere near 17 different job offers.”
To learn more
For more information about Rose State College's cyber security program, call professor Ken Dewey at 733-7977.