Cybersecurity Bootcamp Meets Students Where They Are

With the rate of cyber-attacks reaching record highs, the need for cybersecurity professionals has never been this vital. Plymouth State University has responded to this urgent need with its Cybersecurity Bootcamp—a comprehensive online training that provides essential skills for this rapidly expanding, highly in-demand, and lucrative career path.

The Cybersecurity Bootcamp is an accelerated program that prepares people with little or no background in IT for entry-level jobs in cybersecurity. It also provides valuable background for those already involved in IT who want to expand their cybersecurity knowledge.

The University’s diverse initial cohort completed the 480-hour course in January. Participants possessed a wide range of prior experience and included a veteran IT professional, a recent PSU graduate, an individual with a graduate degree unrelated to IT, and someone who hadn’t completed college. All were enthusiastic about what they learned.

“Overall, the environment in the sessions was very collegial and conducive to learning,” says PSU Professor A M A Elman Bashar, who co-taught the course with Professor Sriharsha Mallapurum. “These lively classes are just as fun for the instructors to teach as it is for the students to learn.”

Will Platt came with general computer literacy but no prior cybersecurity knowledge. A graduate of the Maine Maritime Academy, he had planned to become a sailor but was grounded due to the pandemic and was looking for a back-up plan allowing remote work.

“I’d recommend this course because it’s good general knowledge in this day and age,” says Platt. “We bank on computers, have transactions on computer, and so on, so it’s really a worthwhile investment. It’s geared for any level of experience and the program can meet you where you are.”

Cara Perez is senior vice president of project management and information security officer at AML Partners, a behavioral risk mitigation firm based in Concord, NH. “I’m in charge of all the policies and procedure for the company, especially regarding security,” says Perez. “I’d definitely recommend the course and I definitely grew from the different things that they were teaching.”

Course scenarios ranged from strategizing cyber defenses for a pizza place and a juice shop to a module on ethical hacking (the process of detecting system vulnerabilities). Training modules were provided by ThriveDX SaaS (formerly Cybint).

“The labs in this program address the most common threats in today’s cybersecurity world,” says Professor Bashar. “The content also covers the usage of industry-standard tools and software frequently used in modern cyberspace. Bootcamp graduates have a great introduction and hands-on experience with these latest and most widely used technologies, which should give them an edge should they decide to pursue a career in cybersecurity.”

Bashar and Mallapurum’s expertise and experience provided additional benefits, such as when a lesson concerned sequel injection, a technique in which harmful data is inserted into a data field to extract unauthorized information. “A professor pulled up an example of a sequel injection lab from one of his classes,” says Perez. “It showed more of a real-life example.”

PSU’s student-centric ethos came through in the online course. “I thought it went really well,” says Platt. “The instructors were very clear and thorough.” Platt has continued to be in touch with Professor Bashar after the course completion regarding job search strategies. Another option that Platt is considering is the University’s new bachelor’s offering in game design, which, together with forensic science and sustainability studies, are new Cluster degree programs that debut this fall. All three respond to both student interest and evolving workforce demands.

Platt might also ultimately resume his interest in a maritime career, and his cybersecurity training will come in handy either way. “You can’t be at sea all the time, so this is definitely a good tool to have in my toolbox,” he says.