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Posted by Anonymous (not verified) on 6 Dec 2017

It’s the moment every astronautical engineer involved in satellite missions looks forward to: the launch date.

That’s when the weeks of effort – the team meetings and problem-solving sessions, the copious time spent in the lab, the seemingly endless adjustments and rebuilds -- reach their culmination. The planning and preparation transform into measurable results. For the Capitol Technology University astronautical engineering student team involved in the university’s Cactus-1 satellite mission, that moment is fast approaching. NASA is expected to confirm a date for lift-off within the coming months.

“Cactus-1 is launching in the spring or summer of next year and we’re in our final integration steps,” says Dr. Alex “Sandy” Antunes, the astronautical engineering professor who has mentored the student-led project team. “We’re soldering up the flight boards. Instead of green and black practice boards, you’re going to be seeing the white ones that are used for flight. Because they reflect sunlight, they have better thermal properties.”

Although the Cactus-1 payloads – a debris-capturing tool that uses an aerogel substrate, and a communications experiment – have generated the most attention, there are other, less glamorous aspects to the project that require just as much effort, Antunes pointed out.

“There’s also the bus,” he said. “That’s the power and coms and the computer that controls everything and makes it all work. It’s the least sexy and probably most difficult part of the system because if any part of the bus fails, everything dies” Especially since CACTUS-1 involves multiple student teams that depend on each other for overall mission success.

Lead engineer Pierce Smith, a senior, can be found most afternoons in the clean room of Capitol’s Space Operations Institute (SOI), busily soldering or checking specifications. “We’ve finished most of the design work and have reached the point where we’re saying ‘okay, it’s going to work – we’re ready to build!’”

CACTUS-1 is one of fourteen CubeSats selected for the CubeSat Launch Initiative, representing universities, non-profit organizations, and NASA field centers. Other schools chosen for CSLI include Arizona State, Cornell, Colorado State, Michigan State and the University of Central Florida.

It brings together two student projects – the TRAPSat debris-capturing experiment and Project Hermes, which is exploring methods of satellite command and control via TCP-IP. The teams have morphed over the years as members graduate and new members join.

With the mission now in its final stretch, Smith says it will be deeply rewarding for students to see their endeavors come to fruition.

“I’ve designed a lot of the boards and the mechanical parts and all of those parts are here now. It’s pretty cool to …see them actually made, to see that they will be flying. I think that’s the coolest thing for me,” he said.

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Posted by raherschbach on 6 Dec 2017

When Typhoon Haiyan struck Southeast Asia in 2013, an estimated 6,300 people died in the Philippines alone, and millions were displaced. Williams Ojo, a doctoral student in Capitol Technology University’s PhD program in business analytics and decision sciences, believes those numbers would have been smaller if relief efforts had not been hampered by problems with communication and information management.

“There was a gap in terms of trying to identify precisely the number of people affected and the number of nurses and doctors that needed to be deployed in specific areas,” recalls Ojo, who served as an World Health Organization (WHO) information systems management officer in the wake of the disaster. “I observed that some locations had more doctors and nurses than needed, while others did not have enough. This was because of the lack of an integrated database.”

Lessons learned from the Haiyan relief efforts were the subject of Ojo’s presentation to the Decision Sciences Institute (DSI) conference in Washington, DC, held in November. Data analytics and modelling provide tools that can enable resources to be allocated more precisely, Ojo said in his conference paper, Information Management During Disaster Response in Visayas Region of the Philippines: Typhoon Haiyan Experience.

Steps proposed by Ojo include the development of a simulation model that harnesses data from multiple sources, including satellite imagery and census information, to predict the human resources and medical supplies required for a given community.

Children, pregnant women, the disabled, and the elderly all have different sets of needs, and data-driven modelling could allow relief agencies to calibrate their assistance more precisely, he said.

“If we have baseline data regarding the population, number of health facilities, and human resources in a given area, then we can use modelling to determine the appropriate number of doctors, nurses, sanitation workers, and other personnel that need to be sent to that area during an emergency,” Ojo said.

As a presenter at the annual Decision Sciences (DSI) Institute conference, Ojo had the opportunity to share his work and exchange ideas with a global community of decision scientists, all attending one of the key professional events in the field. The DSI holds its annual conference each fall at different locations around the world.

Ojo, who began his doctoral studies at Capitol in the spring of 2017, plans further research into the use of analytics and modelling tools as he completes his PhD dissertation in business and analytics, one of three online doctorates available at the university.

Capitol’s doctoral program in cybersecurity, launched in 2010, was the first of its kind and has received successive Center of Excellence designations from the DHS and NSA. In 2014, the university established its PhD program in business analytics and decision sciences, and in 2017 Capitol unveiled a new PhD in technology.  For more information about Capitol’s programs, contact gradmit@captechu.edu.

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Posted by raherschbach on 1 Dec 2017

Do you remember a time when you used your mobile phone simply to make phone calls?

For most, those days now seem like the distant past. Smartphones have now become integrated into nearly every aspect of our lives. We use them to monitor our health. We use them to track our exercise routines. We use them to help us get where we’re going, and to keep abreast of the information we need.

And we use them to make financial transactions and shop.

Along with our increased dependence on mobile devices comes increased interest among cybercriminals and hackers. For cybersecurity professionals, this means a proliferation of new attack surfaces – and a major challenge when it comes to securing them.

“We’re at a game-changing moment in the field,” the chair of Capitol’s cybersecurity program, Dr. William Butler, says. “Suddenly everyone is carrying around these powerful, miniature computers, all connected to the internet, and all containing sensitive information that you do not want the wrong people to gain access to.”

“The potential risks are mind-boggling. And we have to figure out how to protect against them.”

The two major mobile platforms – Apple and Android – reflect starkly different philosophies, each with its pros and cons. Android’s operating system, developed by Google, is mainly open-source – an asset to app developers that comes with a potential cost in terms of security. Vulnerabilities are addressed through patches, which must then be applied by the individual vendor that sells you your phone. According to Slate magazine tech writer Dan Gilmour, Android is a “freewheeling mess.”

Apple, by contrast, controls its operating system tightly and automatically sending updates to iPhones. But the closed nature of the Apple environment, critics argue, hampers its flexibility.

Besides the question of how to secure current devices, there is also the problem of older devices that are still in use – but lagging far behind in terms of security.

“A major issue is protecting millions of legacy devices currently in use, which do not have the capability to implement the latest countermeasures (multi-factor authentication, encryption, VPN to name a few),” Butler notes. “The threat to these Internet-connected devices is very real and continues to evolve quickly as public reliance on these devices increases.”

At Capitol, Butler and other cybersecurity faculty are helping educate students to meet the challenges posed by mobile. The Capitol cybersecurity program, a DHS and NSA-designated Center for Excellence in cybersecurity education, draws its faculty from professionals working in the field and updates its curriculum regularly to reflect emerging developments, including the rising prevalence of mobile.

“The challenges are many,” Butler says, “but the rewards presented by these emerging technologies are two important to forgo their use.”

For more information on cybersecurity programs at Capitol, contact Dr. Butler at 240-965-2458 or whbutler@captechu.edu

 

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Posted by raherschbach on 30 Nov 2017

It’s a scenario that many people would prefer not to imagine: you’re speeding down the highway at 70 mph, and an unknown adversary takes control of your car, disconnecting your brakes and eventually crashing you into a ditch.

Two members of the Capitol Technology University Cyber Battle Team participate in a contest.That’s exactly what happened to Andy Greenberg, a writer for Wired magazine, in 2015. True, the incident did not exactly catch him by surprise: he had volunteered to be a “digital crash test dummy” in an experiment staged by two cybersecurity advocates, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek. Together, they were out to demonstrate the serious security vulnerabilities associated with internet-enabled entertainment systems, a feature of many vehicles now coming off the assembly line.

With Greenberg behind the wheel of a Jeep Cherokee, the two hackers began to wreak havoc: blasting the interior with frigid air, blurring the windshield with wiper fluid, then disconnecting the transmission and, eventually, the brakes. Even though he was in on the stunt, the writer found it increasingly difficult not to panic – especially as an 18-wheeler bore down on his crippled vehicle.

Greenberg survived to tell the tale, warning that the rush to add internet-enabled features and services is outpacing our ability to secure them from intruders. “Chrysler, like practically all carmakers, is doing its best to turn the modern automobile into a smartphone,” he wrote for Wired.

Hackable cars are only one of the emerging security nightmares arising from the proliferation of internet-enabled devices, or the Internet of Things (IoT), as the phenomenon is commonly dubbed. Across a wide spectrum of industries, companies are eager to harness the capabilities – and, in many cases, the potential cost savings – that come with an IP address.

The result, too often, is a wide-open back door for cyber criminals and a raft of unsuspected consequences for businesses and consumers.

Cyber Battle Team members watch a monitor.An internet-enabled HVAC system, for example, was the initial point of entry when hackers compromised the Target Corporation’s internal network in December 2013, staging one of the most infamous data breaches to date. The thieves appropriated domain access privileges and disguised themselves as admins, then tunneled their way into database servers, gaining access to the Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of 70 million customers and stealing 40 million debit and credit card credentials – which they then sold on the black market.

And it all started because of a convenient, cost-saving new feature added to many HVAC systems: network access. Such access enabled the vendor in charge of heating and air conditioning services to remotely monitor energy consumption and temperatures at individual stores.

An expanding attack surface

Staying ahead of the security problems posed by the dizzying array of networked devices is a key priority at Capitol Technology University, long known for its cutting-edge undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs in cybersecurity. The university was among the first to offer a doctorate in the field, starting in 2010.

Today, Capitol continues to upgrade its curriculum and provide new resources in response to quickly evolving trends. The pool of students seeking cybersecurity expertise is changing as well. No longer merely a concern for specialists, cybersecurity is becoming everyone’s business.

William Maconachy, vice president of research at Capitol Technology University and a revered pioneer in the field, believes the general public can no longer afford to remain blissfully ignorant.

Dr. William Vic Maconachy “Tremendous vulnerabilities are there as a result of our becoming so web-reliant. Web reliant equals web vulnerable,” he said.

While the potential to wreak financial havoc is serious, Maconachy says it’s the implications for personal privacy that keep him up at night.

He cites, as an example, the experience of a friend who installed a home security video system, only to discover that it was being hacked. Instead of providing security to him and his family, the cameras were being used by an outsider to spy on their activities.

“The invasion of privacy is becoming a big thing,” Maconachy says. “It’s not just about thieves stealing money off of your credit card, bad as that is. We’re talking about serious intrusions into a person’s life space.”

Dr. Jason M. Pittman, a professor of cybersecurity at Capitol, sees a cybersecurity arena that is becoming increasingly complex and decentralized.

“The single most pressing area over the next five years will be low-power, embedded devices. These devices will accelerate in their penetration into daily life because of the huge benefit to society,” he said.

Pittman and his colleagues are working to bring about a fundamental change in attitude among stakeholders in cybersecurity technology, including application developers, businesses that offer services, and the consumers that use them.

“We need to massively rethink our approach to developing technology. Improving quality of life and reducing inane burden is the purpose of technology. But we need to begin producing technology that innately includes cybersecurity features,” Pittman said.

 “Secondly, we need to develop a collective ability to move faster when vulnerabilities are announced. Adversaries will always have n+1 steps while we only have n steps. We need to leverage that,” he said.

“We need to evolve a view in which cybersecurity is a baseline attribute.”

Capitol offers cybersecurity degrees at the undergraduate, master's, and doctoral levels. Click here to request information about graduate level programs. For our undergraduate programs, click here.

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Posted by Anonymous (not verified) on 29 Nov 2017

Speed is king in today’s programming environment. And that means powerful, object-oriented programming languages may be losing some of their longtime dominance, says Dr. Eric Sabbah, chair of the computer science program at Capitol Technology University.

bachelor's in computer science student“Scripting is more on the rise – Python, for instance,” Sabbah says. “Object-oriented programming is still a big thing but the momentum is really with scripting now. It’s easier to learn and quicker to write.”

Choosing the right approach depends on the scale and complexity of the task, he notes. For many relatively simple tasks, scripting makes the most sense.  For more complex situations, it’s best to turn to a language like Java or C++.

According to Sabbah, a similar trend towards speed and ease of use is being seen in the database programming arena. Although the longtime standard, SQL, still reigns supreme, simpler alternatives such as JSON are gaining more traction.

“In general, we’re seeing a tendency to sacrifice the super-efficient, well-tested enterprise solutions in favor of a ‘let’s do this quickly’ type of approach,” Sabbah says.  “While the more robust solutions are actually quicker and more efficient once you have them in place, they require more effort upfront.”

“When you’re driven by production deadlines, there’s a tendency to want to go for the solution that can be implemented most swiftly – even if it’s less efficient in the long run.”

The take-home for aspiring computer scientists: opportunities exist for different kinds of programming expertise. Scripting is easiest to learn and may be the quickest way to get a foothold in the industry – but broader expertise is valued too.

Capitol, Sabbah says, reflects the increased diversity of the field in its programs. For those seeking to build a deeper theoretical background, a bachelor’s degree in computer science is still the best fit. But the university also offers programs in software engineering and web development, which equip students with the in-demand coding skills they need in today’s deadline-oriented, fast-paced business environment.

“There are many paths available in computer science,” Sabbah says. “Our programs reflect the variety that characterizes the field today.”


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