Campus & Community

PBSC cybersymposium brings together ethical hackers and top employers

Professor Dwight Elliot and PBSC cybersecurity students the security of personal data online during the College’s Cybersecurity Symposium.

On Wednesday, March 20, Palm Beach State College in partnership with local and national cybersecurity organizations brought together student ethical hackers, cyberscientists and industry practitioners to examine the latest cyber-defense techniques and emerging cybercrime threats at a symposium on the college’s Lake Worth campus.

Cybersecurity is one of the most in demand areas for highly paid information technology jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the number of cybersecurity jobs is expected to increase by 32% over the next decade — much faster than the average for occupations overall.

The symposium is the latest initiative from PBSC’s growing push into cybersecurity. In 2023, The National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security have named Palm Beach State College a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense through 2027. The CAE Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) designation is awarded to regionally accredited academic institutions that offer quality cybersecurity-related degrees and/or certificates and meet rigorous requirements to prepare students for the nation’s cybersecurity workforce.

It’s one important reason PBSC is expanding its own cybersecurity program. Currently, PBSC offers students a two-year associate degree upon which they can then follow with another two-year program to earn a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Information Management with a concentration in Security and Network Assurance.: In Fall 2024, PBSC will expand its existing cybersecurity program with new degrees in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.  “Nationally, we’re having conversations on a skills gap in the field of cybersecurity, said PBSC’s John Hadley, district dean of business and computer science. “Our job in admissions is to fill those gaps.”

During the one-day symposium, cybersecurity students participated in panels fielding questions from cyber security professionals from both the private and public sector. PBSC’s Ethical Hackers Club members demonstrated their skills solving solve various cybercrime scenarios. Students had the opportunity to show-off their hacking skills with capture the flag and penetration testing techniques, a security exercise where cybersecurity expert tries to find and exploit vulnerabilities in a computer system. Justin Wan, a 26-year-old in his final year of a bachelor’s degree in information management who hopes to get a job as a penetration upon graduation said the Ethical Hacker’s Club gave him something he never had before: a dedicated community of like-minded people with whom to share ideas and collaborate. “Now I have plenty of people who share the same interest and who can give me guidance,” said Wan.

The event also brough together some of the biggest names in cybersecurity with Google, Mandiant, CyberBIT, Alcatel-Lucent and K-Force in attendance.  For Denise Barrera, a 22-year-old pursuing a bachelor’s in network assurance and forensics it was a first-hand chance to learn more about the kinds of skills and experience employers want. Barrera, who is also the vice-president of the Ethical Hackers Club, said what she learns in the classroom is supplemented by the skills developed online in the club. “You learn to think like a hacker,” she said. “To be successful you need to be able to stay one step ahead of the unethical hackers and how to problem solve on the spot.”

Employers at the event told students they are looking for more than just textbook learning. Students were urged to find their tribe and get experience with clubs such as the Ethical Hackers or other online communities.

In November 2023, PBSC’s Ethical Hackers Club team won second place in the daylong virtual competition between Florida’s “Great 28” public colleges in the First Annual Florida College System Cyber Challenge.  Led by Andrea Sanguinetti, club president and Barrera, vice president, and advised by Dwight T. Elliott, J.D., PBSC professor of information management, the club has about 80 members who meet every other Friday night via Zoom to practice their cyber defense skills and engage in competitions, trainings, and demonstrations, with many earning industry credentials along the way.

For photos of the event, click on the image below.

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