Baylor University Trains Students for Cyber Security Industry, to ‘Stay Ahead of the Bad Guys’

May 24, 2018

Students in the Baylor University Cyber Security Student Organization participated in the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, making up one of the top 10 teams in the nation. (Photo courtesy of Raytheon)

Media Contact: Eric M. Eckert, 254-710-1964
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WACO, Texas (May 24, 2018) — Cyber security affects everyone.

Banking. Credit cards. Social Security Numbers. Social media. Personal information and photos. Communications. Emails. Utilities. National defense structures.

All are at risk. All need protecting. And experts are needed to anticipate and defend against attacks.

“There is a high demand for that type of talent,” said Jeff Donahoo, Ph.D., professor of computer science in Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS). “Lots of people are interested in cyber security experts, and the expertise to stay ahead of the bad guys is pretty significant.”

Thus, Baylor has invested in training students to understand cyber security issues and, more importantly, to be able to combat cyber security threats.

In addition to offering cyber security courses, Baylor fields a nationally ranked Collegiate Cyber Defense Team, organizes a Cyber Security Student Organization and collaborates with area high schools and middle schools to help their students train for competitions.

In April, members of the Baylor University Cyber Security Student Organization competed in the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition in Orlando, Florida. This competition featured the nation’s top 10 teams, who were tasked with defending a commercial network against attacks by a “red team” of professional hackers. Teams were scored on their abilities to minimize system infiltration, keep critical services in operation and prevent exfiltration of sensitive data, with the Baylor team finishing fourth.

"Training for and competing in the cyber security competition was an invaluable experience that gave me the connections and skills necessary to be a professional in the cyber security industry,” said Jackson Swenson, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

He is one of two team members who accepted jobs with Walmart's cyber defense team.

In addition to college-level contests, Baylor is helping train area high school and middle school students.
ECS and the department of computer science have partnered with Midway Independent School District, offering students a cyber security course and the opportunity to participate in cyber security competitions. In March, Midway assembled four teams to compete in the Cyber Patriot competition, and they competed at multiple levels on Baylor’s campus.

Donahoo said he corresponds with other school districts to help them participate in cyber security education and competitions as well.

“The ultimate goal is for students who come in from high school to have the background and skill set collegiate students have,” Donahoo said. “Through competition, if we all challenge each other then we’re going to become the cyber security experts that are needed to be able to defend our institutions in the future.”

Former Media Communications writer Joy Moton, B.A. (Journalism) ’18, contributed to this story.

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

With more than 10 percent of Baylor University’s freshman class pursuing major courses of study in the School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), the focus remains on preparing graduates for professional practice and responsible leadership with a Christian world view. ECS majors include bioinformatics, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, general engineering and mechanical engineering. Among ECS graduate programs are Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees in all disciplines, and several dual-degree programs. The Teal Residential College for Engineering and Computer Science, in which students and faculty live, fosters the pursuit of wisdom, academic excellence, and meaningful relationships for the development of diverse, innovative leaders.