Oregon Tech starts Cyber Defense Center to give security students a leg up
Kris Rosenberg's oven has Wi-Fi, and it makes the Oregon Institute of Technology cybersecurity professor a bit nervous.
Rosenberg said the design feature in and of itself isn't an issue. But the oven presents a risk, in theory, because it could be hacked and remotely activated.
In a world of smartphones, ever-changing passwords and cameras everywhere, the oven is just another device that needs to be managed and protected.
"There is no such thing as perfect security," said Rosenberg in an interview Monday. "That's never the goal. The goal is to manage risk, and as we increase our risk, we need to make smarter and better decisions."
On Monday, OIT launched its Cyber Defense Center, a public-private partnership that Rosenberg and school officials hope will go a long way toward helping Oregon businesses make smarter decisions about security issues big and small.
Rosenberg modeled the cyber center after a teaching hospital. OIT students will be paid $15 an hour in the suburban lab and work under the guidance of cybersecurity professionals.
Cybersecurity, like the medical world, is predicated on trust and skill.
"You don't want somebody who just went to med school performing their first surgery on you with no supervision," Rosenberg said.
The school said students will create weekly threat reports for the companies, track ongoing internal and external vulnerabilities and offer recommendations to beef up security. The setup positions students for good-paying jobs upon graduation and allows small businesses benefit from cybersecurity work that would otherwise cost tens of thousands of dollars more.
Gov. Kate Brown, who was on hand for the Wilsonville center's unveiling, declared a "Day of Cyber" to draw more attention to cybersecurity.
A public-private website, CyberOregon.com, also started Monday with links to resources and more information about the cyber threat.
Brown and U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici spoke about the importance of cybersecurity to a room filled with industry professionals and students.
Brown said she's had her own experience with a security breach, citing a 2014 hack of the Secretary of State's office which cost taxpayers $177,000.
"We all have to have confidence in these systems," she said.
Brown recently signed Senate Bill 90, which creates a statewide cybersecurity council to tackle the issue across state bureaus and private industry. Her office also is supposed to establish a Cybersecurity Center of Excellence by January 2019 to coordinate and relay relevant security threats across public and private sectors in Oregon.
Nagi Naganathan, OIT's president, said cybercrime is an "epidemic" that requires constant vigilance.
The Equifax data breach was among many incidents that compromised the personal information of millions of people this year. The credit reporting agency estimated that cybercriminals stole Social Security numbers, birth dates and other information from more than 145.5 million consumers.
Naganathan said OIT wants to be a "solutions magnet" for small and medium-sized businesses. Large and wealthy companies have the resources to pay for cybersecurity firms. "This is the place where we really want a great melding of practitioners and students," he said.
Rosenberg said the cybersecurity industry has about 2 million open jobs but a lack of skilled workers.
OIT set aside $250,000 in non-tuition related funds to start the cyber defense center. Rosenberg said it will be self-sufficient, with companies that contract with OIT paying the salaries of the instructors and the students' hourly wages. Already, Rosenberg said, the school is working with four companies and is in discussions with others to work on cybersecurity issues.
Currently, about 200 OIT students are in the information technology bachelor's degree program, with about half of those students focusing on cybersecurity.