14:43 PM

Global Cybersecurity Program Opens Cyber Virtual Lab, Gives Students Hands-on Experience

(left to right): Jeremiah Peterson, Eric Botts, Roberto Ortiz-Garcia, Tomas Gago, and Silvia VillaltaUniversity of St. Thomas-Houston Information Technology (IT) Department and the B.A. in Global Cybersecurity Program in the Global Studies and Modern Languages Department teamed up recently to build a cybersecurity virtual experience lab on campus. 

"Adjunct Professors in the B.A. program, Professor Anne Rogers and Professor Delwyn Trusty worked to acquire six refurbished warrantied servers from their partner Pros.com and networking equipment will be donated by the UST IT department." Professor Eric Botts, director of the Center for International Studies and director of the Global Cybersecurity Degree Program, said.

“Students with the proper credentials will be able to access the lab from anywhere just like they can access Blackboard,” Botts said. “The environment will be software defined and loaded on to our servers, which will allow for greater flexibility in terms of the configuration we use for the various courses.

"The global cybersecurity cyber lab will give students hands-on experience to build on the theoretical knowledge they receive in class," Botts said. "It will allow students to test their skills in building network defenses, configuring applications, scanning systems for vulnerabilities, and using penetration testing techniques to breach those defenses." 

The new cybersecurity virtual lab benefits students through the following:

·        Hands-On Learning: 

A cybersecurity lab provides students with a practical, hands-on environment to apply theoretical knowledge gained in the classroom. This experiential learning is crucial in the field of cybersecurity.

·        Skill Development: 

Students can develop and hone their technical skills in a controlled and safe environment, such as ethical hacking, network security, and incident response.

·        Real-World Simulations: 

Cybersecurity labs allow students to simulate real-world cyber threats, attacks, and vulnerabilities. This experience prepares them for the challenges they will face in the industry.

·        Collaboration: 

Labs encourage collaboration and teamwork among students. They can work on projects, conduct penetration tests, and solve security challenges as a team, mirroring the dynamics of the professional world.

Brumfield concurs. "Cybersecurity labs are the training grounds where students transform their theoretical knowledge into practical expertise. The labs provide an invaluable environment for hands-on learning, allowing students to simulate real-world cyber threats and develop skills. 

necessary to protect our digital world. IT is happy to be a part of this initiative; this is a project that IT can be proud of.

Botts is working to build a course around standing up the new virtual cyber lab for spring 2024. “The students will do the heavy lifting,” he said.  Several cybersecurity students also serve as student workers for IT.