The cybersecurity program at the Community College of Baltimore County has been growing steadily over the past few years, and school officials said a recent $2.5 million grant all but ensures that growth will be sustained.
CCBC’s rebranded, refurbished and expanded Cybersecurity Institute is being unveiled Wednesday on the Essex campus. The expansion, which was made possible by a U.S. Department of Labor grant, brings additional classroom space, upgraded equipment and enhanced infrastructure to the cybersecurity program.
CCBC’s cybersecurity program began in 2006, and in 2010 the school launched the Institute for Cyber Security, which was rebranded along with this expansion project.
“We were able to add a lot of new features and redo pretty much everything,” said Ron Hinkel, director of the Cybersecurity Institute. “The grant money gave us the opportunity to get some of the newest and latest network security devices out there for students to work with.”
The institute is on the Essex campus, although some equipment is on the Catonsville campus. But students don’t have to be physically present in either location to benefit from the new technology.
Students will be able to remotely access the network from their personal computer anywhere with a decent Internet connection, said Noell Damron, chair of the cybersecurity program. Thanks to “virtual desktop infrastructure,” he said, students can connect to the servers housed in Catonsville and Essex and do their lab work from home on their own time.
That’s valuable because cybersecurity students need to learn to use multiple kinds of technologies, which they probably don’t have at home. But many CCBC students are nontraditional — they do their assignments at night or over the weekend.
By connecting remotely to the Cybersecurity Institute’s servers, students can access those technologies whenever they need or want to, Hinkel said.
For example, let’s say a student is taking an online course about the Linux operating system. The individual can remotely connect to CCBC’s server from a personal computer running a different operating system, such as Windows, and still be able to work with Linux.
“It gives you all the information you’d need, just as if you were sitting in front of a different computer that was running Linux,” Hinkel said. “So you’re very hands-on.”
Cybersecurity is one of CCBC’s fastest growing programs, officials said. About 140 to 150 students entered the program in 2006, Damron said. Last year, more than 300 students entered.
CCBC plans to continue expanding the Cybersecurity Institute over the next few years. About $200,000 of the $2.5 million grant is left over for future equipment upgrades, Hinkel said, although he acknowledged such a sum “doesn’t go real far.”
The grant was awarded through the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training program. That initiative aims to increase education and career opportunities for people who lost their jobs due to foreign trade or jobs moving overseas.
For example, former employees of RG Steel were deemed eligible for the Trade Adjustment Assistance program when the company closed its doors a few years ago.
Hinkel said people eligible for that program are among those targeted by CCBC’s expanded cybersecurity offerings, as well as veterans and underemployed individuals.
“It helps employees who lost their jobs through no fault of their own come to CCBC and with a very short turnaround, two years or less, obtain not only a degree, but industry certifications that are important to [employers],” Hinkel said.