Cybersecurity Training Program at Georgia Tech Prepares ROTC Students for Service

Cybersecurity has become one of the most serious economic and national security challenges that the U.S. faces today, but it’s one that the government is not adequately prepared to counter. The global cybersecurity workforce is expected to be short 1.8 million workers by 2022, leaving an enormous gap that begs to be filled. For the Department of Defense (DoD) and armed services, this means a greater focus on attracting top cyber talent who can defend the nation against the threat of cyber warfare.

Georgia Tech and other top universities across the nation are taking part in a program that enables Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets and midshipmen to become cyber security experts. The Cyber Spectrum Collaborative Research Environment (C-SCoRE) program helps cadets develop operational skills that will be instrumental in combatting cyber and electronic warfare in the interest of national security. Dr. Bill Melvin, director of Georgia Tech Research Institute’s Sensors and Intelligent Systems Division and adjunct electrical and computer engineering professor, had the original vision for the program. Melvin is also a former Air Force officer and ROTC cadet himself.

Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) received joint funding from the Air Force and Navy this year to hire ROTC students into the program. Dr. Vincent Mooney, associate professor in ECE, leads one of the teams, focusing on Bluetooth and Near Field Communication threats, secure boot for microprocessors, and vulnerabilities in power grid electronics and their effect on security.

“It’s critically important for cadets to learn these cyber skills,” said Mooney. “The military wants to learn from the Internet of Things – for strategic benefits like improved communication – but existing security weaknesses can leave the nation open to being manipulated by our adversaries.”

Mooney goes on to explain that when students participate in the C-SCoRE program, they gain the operational skills and perspective on how to defend against cyber attacks. Even learning the basics – such as authentication, encryption and technology for true random number generation – can help protect systems from being hacked.

“It’s been really interesting for me to go into this field of study that’s going to have such an impact on my life in the fleet,” said Belle Lehmann, Navy cadet and ISyE major at Georgia Tech. “Cybersecurity is going to be really important in the future. C-SCoRE has broadened my horizons and my understanding of so many things.”

“I’m a computer science major, and cybersecurity has been a passion of mine since high school,” said Alexander Hennie-Roed, Navy cadet and computer science major at Georgia Tech. “Right now, I’m working with power grids, and I’m hoping the Navy will want to utilize those skills.”

Chris Smith, principal research engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, is one of the project directors of the C-SCoRE program. He agrees that there is a real need for cybersecurity officers who are knowledgeable and trained in cyber warfare.

“Often, cadets graduate from ROTC without having any operational experience,” said Smith. “The hands-on, experiential learning from C-SCoRE ensures they are savvier about cyber and electronic warfare upon graduation.”

C-SCoRE meets a critical need for the armed services, as they consider how to restructure the departments around hiring cybersecurity talent. Various organizations in the DoD and federal government are very interested in hiring students with C-SCoRE experience. And students are coming out of the program much more well-rounded and ready to address today’s modern challenges.

If interested in participating in the C-SCoRE Program at Georgia Tech, please contact Associate Professor Vincent Mooney and Julie Ridings, assistant director for the Opportunity Research Scholars (ORS) Program, for more information.

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