Clark State cyber-security program gets national recognition

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Clark State Security

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Clark State Community College’s cyber-security program — a field with growing demand for jobs — has been designated a Center for Academic Excellence by the National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The school is just the second Ohio community college to get the designation and joins an exclusive group of only about 4 percent of public schools in the country.

Clark State was named a Center of Academic Excellence because of its cutting-edge program that provides students in-depth training in the field and the cyber-security it uses to protect its own assets, said Dan Heighton, a professor of computer networking and cyber-security.

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“Cyber defense is significantly important because there are a lot of issues with cyber threats and cyber terrorist,” Heighton said. “They look to steal information and data from companies and governments.”

The cyber-security program has been at the college for eight years.

Applying for the designation was an intense process, Heighton said, because the requirements are stringent and the school had to prove the course work students take meets specific standards.

“It teaches students skills in cyber defense,” he said. “It teaches students the ability to understand what cyber security is all about and how to protect network infrastructure and equipment that is being attacked by cyber predators.”

Cyber attacks are becoming more sophisticated and successful by the day, Heighton said.

These hacking have been significant and have shaken society in some ways. In the past month, a hack into the emails of the Democratic National Committee and into Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign’s emails proved to be a factor in the U.S. election.

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Also, networks for major internet companies were attacked and websites were either slowed or crashed for large time spans just a couple weeks ago.

Heighton said he expects attacks to increase in the coming years because people use the Internet for almost everything now.

“Today we are dependent on the Internet and all its services — like banking and shopping,” Heighton said. “There are people out there who want to take advantage it. It requires us to have people employed in the field for protection.”

Aimee Belanger-Haas, the Clark State dean of business and applied technologies, said the community college is committed to training and educating students to be prepared to combat these attacks. She said Clark State gives students a solid foundation that students could potentially build on if they choose to try to pursue a four-year degree.

“We can now provide students with the NSA/DHS approved designation as they leave Clark State to pursue a four-year degree or employment,” Belanger-Haas said in a statement.

Heighton said the field is a perfect career for someone who wants to play an important role in making sure theft is prevented.

“This is a career that is going to be growing,” Heighton said. “It’s fast-paced and requires technical skills and thinking. It will also provide a nice paycheck and a nice life for those who get into it.”

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