Blog

Posted by raherschbach on 30 Nov 2016

Capitol celebrated fifteen years of its groundbreaking program in cybersecurity this month, honoring program founders at a special event at the McGowan Center on November 14.

Professors Charles Cayot and David Ward shared their recollections with attendees of the event. They also highlighted attributes of Capitol’s program which, in their view, continue to differentiate the university from its competitors.

“Our faculty is multifaceted,” Professor Ward said. “We have folks from the military, government and private sector – for all the major corporations that are involved in cybersecurity, we have had a member of our faculty, past or present, who has worked for them.”

Cybersecurity at Capitol dates back to 2001, when the university launched a master’s degree program in what was then known as network security. At the time, the subject was generally available at colleges and universities only as an elective, often as part of a computer science program.

Today, Capitol offers programs in cybersecurity at both the graduate and undergraduate level. The doctoral program, founded in 2010, was the first of its kind in the nation – and alumnus Dr. Jason Pittman, who is on the university faculty was the first person to earn a D.Sc. in the field.

Undergraduates can earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Cyber and Information Security, and a master’s degree in the same discipline is offered online. Capitol also operates a Cyber Lab, which provides opportunities to test cybersecurity skills in real-time scenarios, and students also have the opportunity to participate in interdisciplinary projects that combine expertise from several technology fields.

Capitol, Ward said, is “uniquely positioned” for the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) due to the combination of programs available at the university, as well as the school’s emphasis on collaborative learning.

“When you walk into this building [the McGowan Center], you’ll see evidence of the space program, the cyber lab, and robotics. Now, what is the Internet of Things? It’s all these machines and devices that are coming together," Ward said.

“At Capitol we have advanced engineering, advanced computer science, advanced cybersecurity, advanced radio frequency analysis – we’re already there. We already have this symbiotic relationship happening right in front of us.”

Professor Cayot, in his remarks at the event, said the Capitol program was innovative not only because of the field it covered, but also because it helped pioneer a new kind of educational experience: the virtual classroom.

“One thing that a lot of people don’t understand is that Capitol was one of the first  schools in the country to provide live, synchronous online education. We even had to write code for the platform. When we started, we didn’t have Adobe Connect. We didn’t have Centra. It was Capitol, and we built that program,” he said.

Capitol president Dr. Michael T. Wood, academic dean Dr. Helen Barker and Dr. William Butler, chair of the cybersecurity program, also spoke at the event.

Photos: (1) Professor David Ward, (2) Professor Charles Cayot

Blog

Posted by raherschbach on 15 Nov 2016

The aspiration to undertake a doctoral degree can come about for many reasons. For some, it’s part of a planned teaching career. Others have nurtured a lifelong interest in the world of academe.

For Robert Flowers, who earned his D.Sc. at Capitol in 2016, the key factor was discovering that many of the major innovations in the computer and networking fields resulted from work done by academic pioneers and thought leaders.

“When I looked back at key technological developments, there was always someone with the letters “Dr” in front of their name,” Flowers said. “I wanted to be part of that.”

For example, work by Dr. Robert Metcalf, who co-created Ethernet, led to the Internet. Another pioneer with an academic background, Dr. Douglas Englebart, invented the mouse.

And it was Stanford professor Dr. Donald Knuth’s book The Art of Programming that helped Flowers devise ways to radically streamline the work he did at Navy Federal Credit Union – where he has been employed for nearly two decades. Flowers subsequently performed a portion of the independent study for his Capitol doctorate while taking courses at Stanford. He credits his vice president at Navy Federal, Sharon Poach, for encouraging him to explore both experiences.

Now Dr. Flowers is poised to make his own contributions, with a focus on the emerging field of network steganography.

“Network steganography is the exfiltration of data using network packets,” Flowers explains. “As a network engineer, I spent a lot of time doing packet traces and trying to understand or isolate where problems were with the network. I saw there was a way to get data out of an organization via the packet headers, and not many people were looking at this.”

As he delved into the topic, Flowers found that steganography has already been implicated in the exfiltration of U.S. state secrets by Russian intelligence while also playing a role in the battle against terrorists.

When he made the decision to undertake a doctorate, Flowers knew he had a choice of programs available to him. He selected Capitol because he felt it was more clearly structured than some of the other options.

“The other programs I looked at were all over the place,” he said. “Someone obviously put a lot of work into laying out this program,” Flowers said. “You know exactly where you’re going to be in the program at a certain point in time. There was no doubt I was going to complete the dissertation and graduate within a reasonable time window.”

Dr. Flowers defended his dissertation, Impact of Cisco and Linux Firewall Protection in Data Exfiltration via IPV4 Network Steganography, in February 2016. Dr. Flowers is currently working on plans to market some of the ideas related to his doctoral research.

“Once I finish that process, the sky’s the limit!”

 

Blog

Posted by raherschbach on 14 Nov 2016

Student engineers at Capitol have received welcome news about their aerogel-based space debris-capturing project: data received from an August rocket launch has demonstrated that their system works and is ready to be flown into space.

TRAPSat, as the project is known, was launched aboard a sounding rocket in August during NASA’s RockSat-X program. The team equipped their experiment with a camera used to record images and provide data that could be used to prepare for the next milestone – an orbital mission expected to take place next year as part of the CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI).

Because the TRAPSat experiment was pushing data in real time, NASA was able to obtain images and readouts – even though an unexpected anomaly led to the RockSat-X payload not being recovered following the launch.

“It proved that our cameras worked – we got around 30 sets of images and about 60 temperature readouts,” said TRAPSat’s lead engineer and principal investigator, Ryan Schrenk. “We were able to get good pictures, prove our system works well and is ready to be flown on Cactus-1.”

According to Pierce Smith, a student team lead for TRAPSat, the team was looking for specific information about some of the project subsystems.

“One of the things we were curious about was that our Raised Aerogel Support Container was made out of plastic. It’s the thing that holds the aerogel which we’re using to capture space debris. And one of the things we were concerned about was that it is made of plastic. The reason we had to make it out of plastic was that it needs to be precise enough at the corners. You can’t get that with milling,” he said.

“We were worried that the plastic construction could lead to outgassing while in space. Outgassing refers to little particulates that can coat the camera and stick to the lens. One of the good things we learned was from the RockSat X pictures is that it didn’t outgas, and if there was any outgassing it didn’t cover our camera. And that tells us that using plastic – or at least that amount of plastic – in space would be okay for what we needed,” Smith said.

The launch also provided an opportunity to assess the quality of the images that the project receives while in space, said Christopher Murray, also a student team lead.

“In our design, the camera points straight into the aerogel, with a Mylar sheeting covering it. Aerogel takes in light differently – sometimes it’s a bit foggy or dark. We found out during the flight that we had the right amount of sunlight piercing through the Mylar sheeting. Between this and the camera flash, we were able to see it clearly, as though it was window glass,” Murray said.

Moreover, data from the TRAPSat camera was able to assist NASA in determining what caused loss of the payload. Some possibilities – such as a malfunction with the despinning mechanism -- were ruled out on the basis of images from the camera.

The success at RockSat-X means that the testing phase of the project is now done and the time has come to put the system to work and see its abilities, Smith said. The next step is for the project to be flown into space and placed into orbit. That is expected to happen with a NASA launch in the winter of 2017.

“We’re hoping for a three month mission – but we’re going to plan for a lot longer,” he said.

According to Schrenk, the project demonstrates how powerful results can be achieved through system engineering principles, even with relatively simple equipment.

“We were able to build this payload – designed by students and built by students – and then get images from a $30 camera at 95 miles above the earth. That’s pretty incredible, getting a keychain camera to work at that altitude.”

“By following the systems engineering process, we’ve been able to go from balloons to rockets and now to a orbital launch,” he said.

PHOTO: Ryan Schrenk (left) and Pierce Smith.

Blog

Posted by raherschbach on 11 Nov 2016

Dear Fellow Veterans,

            My brothers and sisters in arms: I am writing today on behalf of Capitol Technology University to celebrate your service and recognize your sacrifices to our great nation. All of us – active duty, reservist, and retired – have given so much to our country. We have prepared for, fought, and defeated our nation’s foes in "every clime and place" around the globe. And, as you know, our battles are not over; we are still fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq on this very day.

            Each year on Veterans Day, I know many of us become uneasy. I am no different. My thoughts shift back to difficult battles, to ugly places and horrific events – things I can never forget. I can easily begin to mourn my fellow Marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and "Coasties" who did not come home alive. I can also become irritated or angry at those who just do not understand.

            Today, however, I ask each of you to pause for a moment to recall what Veterans Day means, what it is supposed to mean, and why we are here – standing not only for ourselves, but also for our buddies who are now inside the Pearly Gates. Veterans Day is a time for our nation, and for each of us, to celebrate our time in uniform. It is a day when we are called to proudly remember the good times without diminishing the bad.

            History reminds us that Veterans Day used to be called Armistice Day prior to 1954 in  the United States. It is the day that marks the anniversary of the end of major hostilities in World War I. The official time on this day is when the clock strikes at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month. In 1918, the Armistice with Germany went into effect and the shooting stopped. It was then, and continues to be now, a time and a day to celebrate.

            Those of us who have seen combat know that war is hell on earth – a place where we have literally walked through the Valley of Death, seen the face of evil, and survived. On this Veterans Day, I ask each of you to take a few moments to think about why all of us were chosen to survive. In my humble opinion, there are three primary reasons. I believe we are here to have each other’s backs and support each other. I feel we were selected to bear witness. And, last, but definitely not least, I believe we were chosen to celebrate our military traditions, esprit de corps, and unique bond.

            In closing, I ask you to join our nation today in celebrating the long line of warriors who have served honorably and faithfully. I ask you to extend a hand to our brothers and sisters in arms, both young and old. I also ask you to answer the nation’s call again – this time as a survivor, a witness, and a teacher of all that represents the highest in military honor and distinction.

                           Semper Fidelis,

 

 

 

 

Professor Soren Ashmall
Lieutenant Colonel
United States Marine Corps (Ret.)

Blog

Posted by raherschbach on 3 Nov 2016

It’s the season of giving thanks for all that we have – and a time to raise our awareness of those in need.

Capitol Technology University’s  Puente Library is conducting a Thanksgiving Food Drive to assist Elizabeth House/FISH of Laurel, a local non-profit that works to assist the homeless and working poor. Items provided will go towards Thanksgiving food baskets.

The library is collecting donations through Monday morning, November 7.  Particularly welcome are beans, greens, cranberry sauce, turkey gravy, and bags or boxes of stuffing, according to library staff.

“I feel that the library is a place of community,” said Beth Emmerling, director of library services. “It’s important that we reach beyond Capitol. We have so much to offer here – we’re in school, we’re in a nice, safe place, and we all have something to eat.”

The drive is an opportunity to show the generosity of Capitol and its students, Emmerling said. “We’re doing the best we can to make the community a better place.”

Donations have been coming in all week from students, staff and faculty members. The items will be brought to Elizabeth House on Monday morning, Emmerling said.

FISH of Laurel was founded by Elizabeth “Betty” Conaghli, initially as a food pantry operated out of her home. In 1988, a local property was donated to the organization and named Elizabeth House. Today, volunteers prepare hot meals and bag lunches seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, to serve an average of about 45 people daily.

For more information about the Puente Library food drive, contact Beth Emmerling at Bemmerling@captechu.edu. To learn more about Elizabeth House/FISH of Laurel, visit their website.

Photo: Ranye McLendon (pictured with Beth Emmerling, director of library services) and other library staff are co-ordinating the Puente Library food drive.

 

Blog

Posted by raherschbach on 3 Nov 2016

Capitol seniors Amanda Raab and Bryant Rogers II, recipients of the 2016-17 Golf Scholarship, thanked participants Friday (October 28) at the university’s annual golf tournament, drawing attention to the opportunities opened up for them as a result of attending Capitol.

“I’m originally from a little town called Perkasie in Pennsylvania, and my family has been involved in the artesian well drilling trade for three generations. I’m the first one in my family to go to college,” Raab said. “It was a big financial decision for us, and we were nervous at first – but after the first one or two years at Capitol we realized that the opportunities I was receiving I would not get anywhere else.”

Raab, who is double-majoring in Astronautical Engineering and Computer Science at Capitol while interning at NASA-Goddard as part of a satellite mission, said scholarship assistance has been a game-changer.

“All the scholarships that are available to students at Capitol really make a huge impact on students’ lives – not only theirs but their families’ lives as well,” Raab said.

Rogers, a computer engineering senior, also spoke of opportunities arising from a Capitol education. “I have three company offers so far and am currently narrowing down my choices,” he told the tournament participants. “I’m very grateful for what you have done for me.”

While school can be stressful, Rogers says, he feels motivated to "keep striving, because that's who I am. The stress, the struggles and hardship are worth it when you finally reach that dream job."

The students’ comments came at the end of a brisk golf outing which saw 13 teams competing at the Turf Valley Resort in Ellicott City, MD. Held every year in the autumn, the event raises proceeds that then go towards scholarships awarded to students.

The tournament winners this year were the foursome of Haden Land, Larry Letow, Dave Olson and Ryan Worch. Second place went to Jason Dunbar, Greg Hustead, Colin McGee and Matt Pfouts.

Capitol president Dr. Michael Wood and his teammates Rick Todd and Dwight Yoder finished in third, while the foursome of Fred Hesser, Page Hesser, Jeff Rhyne and Melinda Bunnell-Rhyne came in fourth.

Page Hesser scored the ladies’ longest drive and the ladies’ closest to the pin awards. Among the men, the longest drive went to Dwight Yoder, while Chris Thomas scored closest to the pin.

For a photo gallery of the 2016 tournament, click here.

Blog

Posted by raherschbach on 14 Oct 2016

Electrical engineering professor Garima Bajwa, PhD, is the newest member of the Capitol Technology University faculty. She holds a master’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Waterloo and a doctorate in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of North Texas (UNT), in addition to her undergraduate degree from the Mody Institute of Technology and Science.

While at UNT, she received the award for Outstanding Doctoral Student, was a finalist in the national Three-Minute Thesis competition, and was also in the top eight for the UNT/Sherman Barsanti Inspiration Award. She is also a winner of the ACM-Women Travel Award. Her volunteer work includes serving as an officer for World Echoes and as a teaching mentor. In the following interview, Dr. Bajwa spoke to Capitol about her research interests, teaching vocation, and what she sees as the essential attributes for engineering success.

How did you become interested in engineering and technology?

My parents are both professors - my father in animal breeding and genetics, and my mother in food science and technology. Growing up in an academic environment, I became very interested in science. Then my brother took up engineering and was soon building telecommunications systems and dealing with networks. That inspired me to go into the field as well.

What are your primary research interests?

My PhD was in computational neuroscience, and I became really interested in brain-computer interfaces – how we can control things around us using our brains. I’m also interested in data science – how we can unravel patterns in seemingly chaotic data, which enables us to predict human behavior and build better products. These fields involve a variety of research areas: data analysis, signal processing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

As a teacher, what do you find most rewarding?

I’m thrilled when my students first come to class with no clue about the subject, and then leave feeling that they get it – that moment when they understand how they can physically relate what they’re learning in class to their actual environment. It’s not just a concept for them; they can relate what I’m trying to teach them to what they can see and feel.

What do you see as the essential attributes for success as an engineer?

First, you have to get your fundamentals right. You should be able to connect what you’re doing in class to the real world. You also should have critical thinking skills. That’s crucial. Some engineers think “well, I’ll just build this or modify that”, but it’s actually important to go beyond that and ask why we need it and what is it going to improve. How does it impact the environment around us?

What do you enjoy the most about Capitol?

I have the freedom to do what I want as a professor. That’s something I love about Capitol. And, everyone is very warm, friendly and helpful.

What are some of your interests outside of teaching and research?

I used to do a lot of athletics, and I’m trying to catch up on that now. In my free time, I love to dig deep into things outside of research that grab my attention. I also travel frequently with friends, usually hiking and exploring nature.

Blog

Posted by raherschbach on 13 Oct 2016

The cybersecurity program at Capitol Technology University is one of the nation’s first – and this month it’s celebrating its fifteenth anniversary.

In 1999, in response to growing student interest, the university began developing a master’s degree program in a field then referred to as “network security.” The new program was unveiled in 2001, following approval by the university’s accreditors.

At the time, cybersecurity was available at most colleges and universities only as an elective concentration, typically as part of a business management or computer science department. Capitol was the first school that responded to student demand by offering a degree program.

The college also innovated by offering the program entirely online – at a time when graduate education was still largely reliant on the traditional classroom model. Today, Capitol also offers an online doctorate in cybersecurity as well as a certificate program and an on-campus bachelor’s degree.

For Dave Ward, one of the original architects of cybersecurity at Capitol, the fifteen-year milestone is “wonderful” and a time to take stock of the rapid changes that continue to shape the field.

“When we started the program, we really didn’t know where this was going,” Ward says. “We had a very good idea concerning specific pieces that had to be addressed. But the rationale for putting together an entire degree program was not obvious.”

Ward himself was skeptical. “I saw cybersecurity primarily as a network issue and as an engineering issue. I wasn’t anticipating the kinds of criminal chicanery that we see today – from malware to social engineering.”

At the time, Capitol offered a single course in network security as part of its master’s program in internet architecture. “Students kept telling us they wanted more,” remembers Rob Ashworth, who developed the curriculum of the new degree program together with Ward and another professor, Charles Cayot.

Fast forward to 2016, and not only have cybersecurity threats burgeoned and become more sophisticated, but they also have the potential to impact health, safety and well-being as never before. In today’s “Internet of Things,” everything from the kitchen fridge to the family minivan is a potential attack surface. That translates into a critical need for cybersecurity expertise – and for programs, like Capitol’s, which focus on practical training conducted by professionals who work in the field.

”We’re no longer primarily up against ‘script kiddies” or other amateurs who see hacking mainly as a challenge or sport,” Ward says. “What we have now is organized crime bent on stealing or extorting very large amounts of money, as well as trying to steal intellectual property. We also have government-sponsored attacks conducted in Cold War-style, as a way to damage an adversary without direct military action.”

Meanwhile, Ward notes, the rise of the “Dark Web” has provided a venue for the illicit activities of a wide range of criminals, from drug dealers to human traffickers.

Compared to fifteen years ago, a cybersecurity program is no longer a rarity. Capitol has numerous competitors. But while many take a more academic approach, Capitol’s program remains keenly focused on the practical application of learning.

Professors continue to be recruited from among the best and brightest in the military, government and private arenas, and the curriculum is continually updated to reflect their insights and experience.

 “This program was built up over time by subject matter experts,” notes fellow professor Cayot. “One of our real strong points has been that the instructors are extremely knowledgeable about the material and can relate to the students from the workplace, in addition to teaching them the latest published solutions.”

Commemorating the fifteen-year anniversary, the cybersecurity program will be holding a special event on November 14, featuring current faculty members as well as Ward and others involved in the program’s inception. For more information, contact Joy Exner at jexner@captechu.edu.

Blog

Posted by raherschbach on 11 Oct 2016

As part of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, an annual initiative designed to promote awareness of the need to protect networks and digital assets, Capitol is holding a poster contest for students. All Capitol Technology University students are eligible to enter the contest, which features a monetary prize for the best poster. 

Each poster  must feature original student artwork and illustrate the safe use of the internet and/or mobile devices, focusing on one of the following concepts:

  • Cyber Security
  • Cyber Bullying
  • Cyber Community Citizenship (Cyber Ethics)
  • Malicious Code (worms and viruses)
  • Inappropriate texting 

Posters will be prominently displayed for one full year (October 2016 to October 2017) and a monetary prize will be awarded.

  • Submit all posters by October 21
  • Judging will be on Cyber Saturday October 22
  • Winner will be announced on October 28. Prize given out shortly after.

 

Please e-mail all completed  posters and questions to Dr. William Butler: whbutler@captechu.edu

To find out about other NCSAM activities at Capitol, click here.

Blog

Posted by raherschbach on 10 Oct 2016

A dedicated group of Capitol students recently spent their Friday night battling cyber threats during a 24-hour lock-in at the university’s Cyber Lab, held in conjunction with MITRE Cyber Academy’s sixth national Capture the Flag (CTF) competition.

Team members faced off against students from colleges and universities across the country, tackling such challenges as binary exploitation and reversing, web exploitation, computer/network forensics, cryptography, and critical infrastructure protection.

When the event finished at 5 pm on Saturday (September 17), Capitol’s team had racked up an impressive 1,910 points, placing in 7th place out of 46 schools in the college division.

It was an exciting result for a team that consists largely of freshmen and sophomores, many of whom are new to the world of cyber competitions. According to Cyber Lab manager Yesihake Abraha, who led the effort, their success had a lot to do with the degree of collaboration.

“The reason we did well is that we had a lot of people coming together and collaborating, not just working separately,” Abraha said. “The CTF can be done individually or in a group environment. We wanted students to come in and see what we could find out by working together.”

The event allowed more experienced students to mentor their younger counterparts, helping them build their confidence as they gained practice in handling an environment of intense competition.

“A lot of people get scared by CTFs,” Abraha explained. “They don’t think they’re smart enough to do it or they don’t think they have what it takes. Bringing everyone here really helped with the morale. Students loved coming here -- they met new people and figured out how to do these challenges. We were all enjoying ourselves, having fun.”

Beyond the MITRE event, the longer-term plan is for Capitol’s cyber team to participate in several competitions over the year, culminating in the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (MACCDC).

“We wanted students to come in and participate in the MITRE challenge so they will be prepared for the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (MACCDC) later in the school year,” Abraha said. “We’re planning on having more events like this in the future.”

 

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