Capitol trains professors to take on West African cybersecurity challenge
Capitol and the Catholic University Institute of Buea (CUIB) marked an important milestone in their partnership Monday (May 23) as two CUIB cybersecurity professors wrapped up a four-week immersion training program held on Capitol’s Laurel campus.
Leonnel Franz Kwedeu and Ngatchu Damen Nyinkeu completed 120 hours of training that covered basic cybersecurity concepts, Linux system administration, cybersecurity tools, wireless communication and encryption, and internet privacy and anonymity.
The two CUIB faculty members are playing a key role in developing CUIB’s new cyber and information security department, which aims to meet a growing demand for cybersecurity expertise in Cameroon and other West African nations. As an established leader in cybersecurity education, Capitol is in a position to provide guidance on curriculum, academic requirements, course delivery and other aspects of the new program.
Mr. Kwedeu is the departmental chair of Computer Networks and Telecommunications Systems at CUIB, and Mr. Nyinkeu is a faculty member. The immersion program was designed to supplement their existing IT and computer science expertise with cybersecurity fundamentals.
“The immersion program essentially covered the freshman and sophomore cybersecurity courses at Capitol within a four-week period,” said Dr. William Butler, chair of the cybersecurity program at Capitol. “They worked with two of our professors, Dan Ford and Rick Hansen, and received training not only in the materials, but also in the delivery of the materials via classrooms and labs.”
While the CUIB program resembles Capitol’s in many ways, it also takes into account differences in the regional cyber environment. With infrastructure issues and economic disparities limiting access to desktops or laptops, Africans typically rely on mobile devices to a far greater extent than do their US counterparts, Butler explained.
“That means more of a specialized focus on mobile forensics than you’d see in a US program,” Butler said.
Members of CUIB first cohort in the program began their studies in Fall 2015 and will graduate after four years. They will be Cameroon’s first group of cybersecurity professionals with in-country academic credentials in the field.
One of their tasks, Butler said, will be to help raise awareness both in the government and private sector about the key importance of protecting digital assets.
“Here in the United States, we’ve been through a period where computer science and IT had taken off, but people weren’t aware fully of the importance of cybersecurity,” Butler said. “With business in West Africa becoming increasingly intertwined with computer networks, we’re likewise seeing an effort to promote such awareness at various levels – from individual businesses to Chambers of Commerce to the government.”
The concern doesn’t only affect business, he said. “Law enforcement is dealing with cybersecurity challenges, and terrorist networks such as Boko Haram also have the potential to exploit network vulnerabilities to cause harm and advance their agenda.”
CUIB, he said, is helping to build a robust response to these threats by developing its program and partnering with Capitol, an NSA-designated Center for Excellence in the field.
The two institutions also share a similar approach to educational philosophy.
Founded in 2010, the CUIB stresses hands-on learning, empowering students “to be job creators and masters of their destinies through experiential learning (learning by doing).”
Capitol, Maryland’s only independent university with a focus on computer science, engineering and IT, also emphasizes a practical approach education, drawing faculty who are professionals in their fields and engaging students in a wide variety of projects, labs and other applied learning experiences.
“We share with CUIB many underlying tenets in terms of our approaches to education,” Butler said.