How the University of New Brunswick leads the way on Cybersecurity

A partnership between the East Coast university and an Israeli tech firm aims to improve internet safety—on campus and around the world

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    cyber security university program: Screenshot of live cyber attack tracking throughout the world. (FireEye)

    Screenshot of live cyber attack tracking throughout the world. (FireEye)

    Students are well-positioned to understand the dangers of living online. From checking grades and class schedules on school websites to emailing professors, to chatting with friends and sending snaps across the school library, students rely on the internet for many essential—and less than essential—services. They understand the dangers of identity theft, along with privacy violations and blackmail. That’s where the Canadian Institute of Cybersecurity, or CIC, comes in.

    Located on the UNB campus in Fredericton, the institute has recently partnered with CyberSpark, an Israeli tech incubator, to work on research and development in the cybersecurity field. Ali Ghorbani, the director of the CIC, says the partnership allows students to get involved with research projects that have global impact.

    “Aside from the fact that cybersecurity is a multidisciplinary phenomenon, it’s also a multicultural phenomenon,” Ghorbani says. “Getting students to understand and work with partners in other parts of the world—that’s a great experience for students.”

    With the CyberSpark partnership, Ghorbani will be able to bring more students on to study at the CIC, at the graduate and undergrad levels. The added capacity is needed; interest in the program has grown in the past few years. “The students want to see how they can work with us, how they can get a degree in cybersecurity, or a specialization. So I think that cybersecurity also helped the computer science [faculty] to recruit better students,” Ghorbani says.

    That’s why the institute established two new programs in the past year. The first is a specialization in cybersecurity, which an undergraduate can attach to their BSC. The other is a one-year degree program in the same field, which is now offered on an unofficial basis. Students at both levels can work on projects connected with CyberSpark. In a growing field, more students will now get a chance to work on developing new counterattacks to possible cyberthreats.

    For computer science student Rachel Hudson, the chance to work at the CIC has changed her outlook regarding online safety.

    “I definitely think it is becoming more interesting for me as I learn more about it and see how cybersecurity can affect so many different aspects of our society and the technology we use,” she says.

    Hudson will graduate in May with a degree in computer science and math, and says the CIC is just one thing that first attracted her to the University of New Brunswick. The smaller classes mean more face-to-face time with professors. And—in a bit of a twist—when students enter the department in their first year, they are sorted into “houses” (yes, like Harry Potter), each honouring a different scientist. Hudson’s house is named for Charles Babbage.

    “The classes are a bit smaller and the faculty itself is fairly small, and everybody gets to know each other,” Hudson says. “The professors are really approachable and friendly. It’s been a great experience for me.”

    Hudson has worked this year as a co-op student at the CIC, building data sets and looking at ways to update old data. Now she’s able to see areas where cybersecurity will become increasingly important.

    That’s just what Ghorbani hopes to hear from students. He wants to make sure every student in the computer science program, and eventually in other university departments, gets to incorporate cybersecurity into their learning.

    “We’d want to change our current climate and make sure that the science of cybersecurity becomes a fundamental teaching in our programs,” Ghorbani says. “For arts and science and engineering . . . no matter what they are studying, they are all constantly in cyberspace, therefore they are all targets for compromise. So it doesn’t matter if it’s the faculty of law or business or kinesiology—they have to take that course and get to know how to safeguard their information and data.”



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