Solera Networks’ donation will help train next-gen cyberdefenders

May 26th, 2010

A donation program announced today by Solera Networks could be a major milestone in making the Internet safer — by accelerating the training of a new generation of professional cyberdefenders.

Solera says it  will donate a cutting-edge forensics tool, valued at $10,000, to any university or college running an accredited program to train cybersecurity professionals.

Solera got the idea by participating in Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, an annual event that pits teams from 80 schools vying in competitions to defend a network against outside attackers, as shown in this video.

Solera noticed that many of the 205 college programs running cybersecurity degree programs accredited by the Center for Academic Excellence  are using rudimentary open-source scanning tools to train students. Still, many students are able to do a credible job identifying and deflecting intrusions.

“These kids have free tools,” says Pete Schlampp, Solera’s vice president of marketing. “Those aren’t the tools they’re going to use in real life on the job.”

Schools that take advantage of Solera’s offer will have access to Solera’s DS Virtual Network Forensics Appliance, to train the next generation of network forensics experts. This is a software version of the on-premise appliance federal government agencies and large corporations use to watch for suspicious Internet traffic emanating from hackers probing their networks for weak spots.

“It’s our full application, not a watered down version,” says Alan  Hall, Solera’s  director of marketing.  “It will allow instructors to record all network traffic, which they can replay and use for training exercises.”

Solera’s largesse intersects with a rise in interest in cyberdefense as a career path. Enrollment in two-year programs participating in CyberWatch, a consortium of colleges focused on cybersecurity training, has jumped about 66% in each of the past two years, says CyberWatch director Casey O’Brien

“As our society has become utterly dependent on computers the way we previously became utterly dependent on reliable electric power, cybersecurity has become absolutely essential to our society’s functioning and well-being,” says O”Brien. “So the critical importance of cybersecurity is a driver of growth” in enrollments.

O’Brien says students include:

  • Traditionally-aged students who are entering college for the first time.
  • Adult students seeking to either change or advance their careers.
  • High school students looking to take college classes while in high school (AKA Parallel Enrollment Program.)
  • Professionals in the field looking to update/upgrade their skills/knowledge.

Cyberdefense students win regional contest

“The two-year colleges are pumping out the real workers in cybersecurity, the people with the strongest skill sets,” says Tim Rosenberg, president of White Wolf Security. “Though the universities are meeting demand, there is a strong dichotomy in academic circles regarding engineers versus mechanics, or theory versus practice. As more listen to the needs from industry and respond, there is more emphasis on producing students that can work, not just become employed.”

Solera CEO Steve Shillingford observes that  securing  trade secrets and preserving national security “requires swift, intelligent response. Cyber attacks not only threaten our national interests, they also have a huge economic impact.

“We have to prepare and train future professionals in order to respond swiftly and appropriately as new threats emerge,” he continues. “We are happy to play a role in assisting with this education.”

By Byron Acohido