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Center for Cybersecurity and Technology Gains National Consortium Membership

cct bulletin board

The nationwide Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics admitted the SUNY Plattsburgh Center for Cybersecurity and Technology into its ranks, placing it among the likes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University, and the University of California, Berkeley.

According to the consortium’s website, its goal is for university clinics to share knowledge and encourage the establishment of clinics at other institutions “to collaborate and expand cybersecurity for the public good.”

Membership in the consortium gives the SUNY Plattsburgh center nationwide prominence.

In-demand Field, Partnerships with Employers

Since the SUNY Plattsburgh Center for Cybersecurity and Technology opened in 2017, dozens of students gained valuable hands-on experience in the space housed in Au Sable Hall, home of the School of Business and Economics.

cristian balanAfter graduation, those students have landed jobs with salaries ranging from $75,000 to $103,000, with pay increasing even more as they gain career experience, said Cristian Balan, coordinator of the center and lecturer of management, information systems and analytics.

Cybersecurity jobs will increase by about 32% from 2022 to 2032, much faster than average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Center for Cybersecurity and Technology fosters relationships with companies like Vertek, a cybersecurity and telecom company in Vermont, which regularly hires center alumni.

“The last six hires are alumni of the CCT, and they are looking at our alums again,” Balan said.

Evaluate Company Network Security

Two student interns supervise the Center for Cybersecurity and Technology each semester.

Balan said the 20 to 30 participating students gather a couple times weekly to brainstorm, work on projects, listen to guest speakers or plan future work.

This semester, the group is evaluating the security of a nonprofit’s network, identifying vulnerabilities and providing recommendations to information technology personnel on how to fortify the system.

“Most nonprofits either don’t have the funding or the personnel to be able to do this (type of work),” Balan said.

Faculty ‘Encouraging, Helpful’

mike villaniSenior transfer student Mike Villani said interning at the Center for Cybersecurity and Technology gives him the freedom to work on projects that interest him, which is different than much of his coursework.

A computer security major from Smithtown, N.Y., Villani works a paid job at the university’s Helpdesk, which solves IT problems, while interning at the center this semester.

Over winter break, Villani completed a free training program with digital security company Splunk, an example of credentials students can pursue through their affiliation with the center to make them more attractive to employers, Balan said.

elizabeth tchernavinaJunior Elizabeth Tchernavina, who is from Costa Rica, is co-directing the Center for Cybersecurity and Technology this semester with Villani.

So far this spring, she said she has worked on network mapping and evaluating device security and potential vulnerabilities. She also created a system to monitor incoming network traffic using Wireshark, a free, open-source software for analyzing traffic.

“Cristian Balan is very encouraging and offers help when needed,” Tchernavina said. “He goes the extra mile to explain concepts, especially when someone like me finds the major challenging.”

Work with Local Youth

In the seven years since the Center for Cybersecurity and Technology opened, Balan has worked to create opportunities for local youth to gain experience in STEM.

To get the project off the ground, local organizations donated computer equipment to furnish the designated space in Au Sable Hall.

As time passed, Balan and the student interns started working with children in the community, traveling to North Country school districts like Keene Valley and Peru.

They used mini-computers called Raspberry Pi as teaching tools. Students use the mini-computers for computer programming and cybersecurity projects, Balan said.

“You can do all kinds of interesting projects with it. The idea behind them is to build a really cheap computer, and it was successful,” he said.

Annual Cybersecurity Conference

Balan organizes an annual on-campus North Country Cybersecurity Conference where current students can learn about the latest industry trends and network with professionals in the field, including alumni speakers, which aligns with the mission of the consortium.

“For (SUNY Plattsburgh) to have the CCT and for Balan to put the conference together was the best-case scenario that I could have asked for” in a college, Villani said.

Past speakers include an FBI special agent with the cyber squad in Albany, a cybersecurity engineer, the chief information officer for New York state, an IBM vulnerability management consultant and others.

‘Alumni Give Back’

Balan said the impact of the Center of Cybersecurity and Technology on its alumni is evident in their willingness to give back to current students.

“They are more than willing to spend $300 to get us a new appliance,” Balan said. “They know they learned the skills that made them very successful right here.”

Alumni purchased three new firewalls for the center, he said.

“We are creating a culture, a sense of community, a sense of giving back.”

— Story, Photo by Assistant Director of Communications Felicia Krieg

Headshots provided

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