“We hack everything.”
These are the words of Brian Paige, associate vice president for information technology at Calvin University.
That’s right—the words of Calvin’s chief information officer.
At 3:30 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays, he and his students are busy at work.
“This is a hacking class,” said Paige.
Hitting the range
Information Security (CS364) is co-taught by Paige and his colleague Adam Vedra, the university’s chief information security officer.
The two spend a lot of time with their students in the U.S. Cyber Range, a virtual computer security lab built specifically for practicing hacking and counter-hacking techniques in a controlled environment.
“The Cyber Range provides an environment to explore legally and safely some of the tools related to cyber security,” said Enoch Mwesigwa, a senior computer science major. “This helped me to better understand the hacker mindset as well as how to thwart and detect them.”
It’s the reason Vedra and Paige want their students to not only learn the concepts, but practice them in a lab.
“We have the opportunity in the range to setup environments that mimic real-world situations,” said Vedra. “They are walking through the steps an attacker would go through to get information and passwords. It opens their eyes to see in some sense how easy it can be if you are properly trained … and it gives them the skills to know how to defend against those sorts of attacks.”
Making timely and historical connections
The labs mimic real-world situations, but so do the concepts discussed in class.
“Every one of our classes could be ripped from the headlines. We often take the daily headline literally from the Wall Street Journal or New York Times or Wired, whatever about nation state cyber war or hacks of credit card companies,” said Paige. “The reason it is so engaging is because you can find the same topics we are talking about reported in the daily news.”
And while the relevancy of the concepts appeal to students, so too does situating the topics in an historical context.
“One aspect of this course that stood out to me is how the professors talked about cybersecurity being a product of…