Crisis, Cybersecurity, and Education

CYRIN Newsletter

Crisis, Cybersecurity, and Education
The New Landscape

The pandemic is changing everything, and if you are involved with cybersecurity and education, this crisis will affect you directly in subtle and not so subtle ways. We took a look at two industries heavily impacted by current events: higher education and utilities. These two arenas highlight how technology is affected by changes wrought by the current crisis—and also how technology and cyber security are helping these two distinctly different communities navigate these challenging times.

Higher Education

Colleges and universities will have to make tough choices in the coming months regarding whether or not to allow students to return to campus. As The New York Times reports in “Campus Life in the Fall? A Test with No Clear Answer,” the choices institutions of higher education are making are not uniform.

The chancellor of the California State University system recently announced that they will hold classes primarily online in the Fall, while other colleges are inviting students back to campus, renting hotel rooms as dorms so students can have access to private bathroom facilities, and using empty arenas as classrooms to allow for social distancing. But even in this time of confusion, what is clear is that all universities—no matter their situation—will need to use some form of online learning tools to support student learning for the foreseeable future.

In a Marketplace segment that asked “What does education look like after coronavirus?”, Dan Rosensweig, the CEO of Chegg, an American tech company aiming to provide a more affordable and relevant education, calls this current pandemic a “wake up call” for higher education. “Crises like this accelerate a trend that is already happening, and then they become permanent,” he says. He notes that there has long been a need to move university education online to make it less expensive and more accessible. In the short term, this crisis is devastating, Chegg argues, but it will have, in the long term, a positive effect on what higher education looks like and how universities serve students.


The pandemic has also brought attention to what is considered an essential industry with essential workers—and how we support (or fail to support) the safety of both. Utilities are considered essential networks. The federal government has recognized that the Utility network is essential and has enacted some strict guidelines on what equipment they can import and use, particularly as it relates to cybersecurity.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order at the beginning of May to try to protect the U.S. electricity system from cyber and other attacks. This move could eventually put barriers on some imports from China and Russia.

Timothy Gardner reports in Reuters that “Trump declared in the order that the threat to the U.S. power system represents a national emergency, which allows the government to put in place measures such as the creation of a task force on procurement policies for energy infrastructure.” A senior Energy Department official acknowledged that the order was not designed to address a new threat, but rather was an effort to bolster the power system. The order allows the energy secretary “to prohibit acquisition, importation, transfer or installation of power equipment from an adversary that they determine poses a risk of sabotage to the U.S. power system.”

It is imperative the bulk-power system be secured against exploitation and attacks by foreign threats,” Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said in a news release. The order will “greatly diminish the ability of foreign adversaries to target our critical electric infrastructure,” he said.

Though countries are not mentioned by name in the order, the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment indicated that China and Russia were two countries among many “using cyber techniques to spy on US infrastructure.” It is imperative to address vulnerabilities in the power system because it delivers electricity not only to homes and businesses, but it also supports the military and emergency systems and critical infrastructure, Gardner reports in Reuters. The system’s cybersecurity vulnerabilities must be addressed.

Preparation is the Key

Alongside this rise of possible threats, there is a dangerous and widening gap in cybersecurity skills—a shortage of people trained with the proficiencies they need to protect the organizations where they work. We explored this talent gap in a previous post.

Hands-on Experience

According to a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), one of the most consistent complaints against cybersecurity education programs is that an over-emphasis on theory and book learning prevents students from building the practical skills they need. Theory alone does not prepare graduates for the tasks they will face once they step onto the job. Practical training and hands-on experience is necessary to equip students with the tangible skills employers expect.

Focus on the Long Term

The CSIS report goes on to say that in order to meet the demand for skilled cyber operators, education and training programs must focus their curricula to ensure that students are able to achieve mastery in the fundamentals of computing and information security. Without this knowledge, graduates will find it difficult to adapt throughout their careers as threats and technologies evolve.

How to Address the Gap?

In order to develop these skills preparation and training is the key.

CYRIN® is a next-generation cyber range platform featuring real tools, real attacks, and real scenarios that provides hands-on training and experience that students, educators, and professionals can use in realistic learn-by-doing scenarios.

As President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, plans are useless but planning is indispensable. Finding after finding shows that cybersecurity awareness training—when implemented as part of a layered cybersecurity strategy—improves security by reducing the risks of end-user hacking. CYRIN will help you create a workforce of cyber-savvy users with the tools they need to defend your system from threats. And for educators looking for a remote, virtual platform with training tools to develop this workforce, CYRIN provides the platform to bring realistic hands-on training and education to the student. In this age of distancing, CYRIN is the ultimate weapon to bring to bear on the problem. E-learning, E-training, realistic and dynamic, that’s CYRIN.

Getting Remote Education Right is the Key

If you’re in education you realize the future belongs to remote education where education is moving to the student. If you’re at an enterprise or office situation you have to be concerned that travel, in-person, inhouse training is more difficult, particularly in the short-term. How do you pick up the slack? In both cases with remote, virtual teaching simulations that bring you as close to the physical, inhouse dynamic as possible.

The Future Belongs to the Bold

Well-trained people stop cyber-attacks. Good preparation {and good tools} can protect your company or train your students on site or remotely. The future belongs to those who act boldly in the present. Whether you’re in education or at the office, CYRIN will prepare you for the cyber security challenges of 2020 and beyond. To find out how contact us now.

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