National CyberWatch Center, “a consortium of higher education institutions, businesses, and government agencies focused on collaborative efforts to advance Information Security education and strengthen the national cybersecurity workforce,” recognized Capitol Technology University’s Security Operations Center (SOC) in National CyberWatch Center’s 2020 Innovations in Cybersecurity Education publication (page 17).
“Congratulations to the winners in all of the four categories–we know the competition is very tough. It is truly an honor to be selected by the National CyberWatch Center and to be recognized by our peer institutions as being truly innovative, said Dr. Bill Butler, Capitol Tech’s Chair of Cyber and Information Security and Director of Center for Cybersecurity Research and Analysis (CCRA). “Our students worked hard to make the SOC’s education concept become a reality and now it is the most sought-after student experience within the cybersecurity program and employers seek out these students at our career fairs.”
The SOC at Capitol Tech houses the institution’s information security team which is responsible for monitoring and analyzing Capitol Tech’s security posture on an ongoing basis. The SOC team’s goal is to detect, analyze, and respond to cybersecurity incidents using a combination of technology solutions and a strong set of processes.
Casey W. O’Brien, Executive Director & Principal Investigator for the National CyberWatch Center, wrote that the “extraordinary work” highlighted in this publication showcases “some of the best cybersecurity educational innovators, and that through our Center, they can share their innovations, accelerate their adoption, and receive proper recognition for their work.”
In its fourth year, the publication received 53 submissions and only 40 were accepted to be showcased in the following four categories: Evidence-Based Strategies, Instruction, Practice, and Program Development.
Capitol Tech’s SOC was recognized in the Instruction category, with the following measurable benefits identified:
- Students are better prepared for internships and employment
- Students gain valuable certifications
- Student gain valuable experiential learning within the SOC
- Student knowledge in related courses is increased
- Employers gain students with more advanced skills
- Students gain situational awareness of threat detection and incident response
The publication also mentions the SOC’s ability to provide hands-on experience for Capitol Tech students, particularly those enrolled in the BS of Cybersecurity which recently won the prestigious, national SC Media Award for Best Cybersecurity Higher Education Program in 2020.
“The concept that resulted in the development our educational SOC five years ago was very simple. The concept began as a feasibility study by a graduating senior for her senior project and was implemented via a series of senior design projects and partially funded by grants from the International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals (ICMCP) and the National Security Agency (NSA),” said Dr. Butler. “The concept was to provide our students with real world experiences, on campus, developing their technical skills in SIEM, log analysis, incident response, forensics, scripting. In addition, students develop something more important situational awareness (SA).
“SA cannot be learned in the traditional four-cornered classroom. Students learn SA through constant repetition of threat scenarios and practice executing the NIST Cybersecurity Framework's five Functions: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover,” Dr. Butler continued. “Students begin their journey with a summer of training sprint with tools such as Splunk. In less than a year of protecting our academic Cyber Lab networks, these students are in high-demand by our employers due to their mature understanding of security operations. Capitol’s future plans are to provide a virtual SOC experience for familiarization, training, and operations.”
In addition to the SOC, Capitol Tech has created multiple different centers to provide students with opportunities to learn specific hands-on experience in their field of study which is not only important to students’ understanding of subjects, but is also an attractive trait to employers. For instance, the university’s Center for Cybersecurity Research and Analysis (CCRA) serves as the university hub for training, research, analysis, and programming in all things cybersecurity.