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START Cybersecurity Fellow develops simulations for classroom use


START Cybersecurity Fellow develops simulations for classroom use

July 14, 2014Scott Jones

START interns recently participated in a series of cybersecurity simulations in which they played the part of different federal and state agencies reacting to the hypothetical hacking of the Maryland State Police Department’s website and networks by the hacker group Anonymous.

Piloted at START before they are used as part of a class for the University of Maryland’s Advanced Cybersecurity Experience for Students (ACES) honors program, the simulations were designed and coordinated in large part by START Cybersecurity Fellow Thomas Georgen, under the supervision of START’s Education Director Dr. Kate Izsak.

“The simulations put everyone in this situation where there’s new information coming in constantly,” Georgen said. “Things are going haywire. An Anonymous user keeps hacking into different things and no one really knows what’s going on. So it’s up to the participants to figure out how to best share information and coordinate their responses.”

Georgen said he hoped that the experience will help the students with more technical backgrounds to understand the public policy aspect of cybersecurity.

“I think the simulations will help students understand how different government departments interact with each other and respond to an evolving cyber-threat,” Georgen said.

Georgen is part of START’s Cybersecurity Fellow’s Program, which provides in-state tuition and a monthly stipend through a competitive Department of Homeland Security Career Development Program grant. As part of the program, Georgen took a class on human factors in cybersecurity at the University of Maryland in the fall and, alongside other students in the program, began work on the initial ideas behind the simulations in the spring. Georgen continued the work as part of the program over the summer, and continued to flesh out the story and the roles of the different agencies. 

“While I did introduce some fictional back stories to drive conflict during the simulations, it was very much based on fact,” Georgen said. “So I think that these are realistic challenges that will come up in the field.  If the students are going to be going into different departments it will help them understand the interactions and the problems they might face.”

Georgen has been working with START since the beginning of the 2013 academic year. He graduated in 2014 with a degree in computer science and a minor in statistics.  He hopes in the future to use his cybersecurity experience to work in the national security or intelligence community. The course utilizing the simulations will be available to ACES students in the fall.