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Computing security faculty receives IBM award for innovations in cybersecurity education

Sept. 22, 2017 
by Scott Bureau

Bill Stackpole, professor of computing security at Rochester Institute of Technology, received an IBM Faculty Award for his efforts to extend cybersecurity learning beyond the traditional classroom and get students the hands-on experience needed in today’s threat landscape.

Stackpole was noted for his instrumental role in founding the Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition (CPTC), an annual intercollegiate tournament for cybersecurity students to practice and hone their skills. The 2017 national competition will be held Nov. 3–5 at RIT.

The IBM award grants Stackpole $40,000, which will be used toward growing the competition.

The IBM Faculty Awards is a competitive program intended to foster collaboration between researchers at leading universities worldwide and those in IBM research, development and services organizations. The awards also promote curriculum innovation to stimulate growth in disciplines and geographies that are strategic to IBM.

“I am very thankful for this award and IBM Security’s shared commitment to educating our nation’s future cyber defenders,” said Stackpole. “This competition offers students a unique simulated environment that mimics real-world networks, and IBM has been supporting it from the beginning.”

The extracurricular competition, founded in 2015, allows collegiate teams to face off as they attempt to break into computer networks, evaluate their weak points and offer plans to better secure them. Competitors experience a day in the life of a penetration tester—the security professionals hired to test and evaluate an organization’s computer systems and networks to ensure that malicious hackers can’t get in.

Pentesting is an in-demand cybersecurity skillset, as these professionals possess the critical thinking skills to think like hackers and find security flaws before the cybercriminals do. Fifty-five percent of security leaders say practical hands-on experience is the most important qualification for a cybersecurity candidate, according to ISACA’s 2017 State of Cyber Security study.

“As the cybersecurity landscape continues to evolve, demand for cybersecurity talent is higher than ever,” said Bob Kalka, vice president at IBM Security. “Close collaboration between industry leaders in cybersecurity and academia is critical—not only to meet the demand, but also to ensure that students are entering the workforce with a solid grasp of today’s sophisticated threats, as well as hands-on experience with the latest tools and techniques to fight back against them.”

Additionally, Stackpole was noted for helping to foster collaboration with IBM to enhance RIT’s academic programs and Center for Cybersecurity with leading industry technologies to give students access to the tools being used in the real world to fight cybercrime. The lab at RIT includes free student access to IBM Security QRadar, a security intelligence platform which is a core technology used in thousands of security operation centers to help some of the largest companies in the world monitor and secure their systems.

In 2012, RIT broke the mold of traditional cybersecurity education by creating the Department of Computing Security, the first academic department devoted solely to computing security. Today, RIT is helping to fill a national need for qualified computing security professionals as one of the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education and for Cyber Defense Research designated by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.