Super informative cybersecurity awareness training course launches partnership between Florida AST and UWF Center for Cybersecurity

March 28, 2018

Dr. Eman El-Sheikh speaks at cybersecurity awareness training session.

Thirty state agency personnel with diverse work backgrounds arrived at the Florida Department of Revenue campus on March 20 for the inaugural two-day cybersecurity awareness training course in Tallahassee. The training course launched a partnership between the University of West Florida Center for Cybersecurity and the Florida Agency of State Technology (AST) to provide cutting-edge cybersecurity education and training for state agency personnel.

AST hosted the sessions and participants took on roles as network, server and exchange administrators along with reporters as they engaged in modules such as cyber incident response detection and managing network devices. Instructors put the participants in teams to encourage collaboration and to gain perspective on how each individual plays a critical role in cybersecurity. Personnel from virtually every state agency participated in the sessions.

The program integrates innovative features and provides hands-on training and educational courses using face-to-face, online and remote delivery to prepare state personnel to detect and protect against emerging cyber threats and attacks. State personnel who complete the sessions receive competency-based certifications.

Cybersecurity awareness served as the foundational topic for three sessions that spanned a week. Future topics will include cybersecurity incident management, network defense, operating system hardening, risk management and cloud security.

In the cybersecurity awareness training sessions, participants used the Florida Cyber Range for their training. The Florida Cyber Range is a state-of-the-art platform for hands-on cybersecurity education, training, operations and research. The UWF Center for Cybersecurity partnered with Metova CyberCENTS to create and operate the Cyber Range.

Malik Butler participated in the inaugural session and cited the hands-on labs as his favorite part of the training curriculum.

“It was super fun and super informative,” said Butler, an enterprise network systems analyst at Florida Guardian ad Litem, a program in which volunteers and staff speak up for the best interests of children who are abused, neglected or abandoned. “I don’t think there were very many individual things that were presented to me that were brand spanking new, but it was really awesome to see everything work in conjunction. When I go in and break a firewall, I can immediately see what effects it has on all of my servers and stations.”

Dr. Eman El-Sheikh, UWF Center for Cybersecurity director, Anthony Pinto, Center for Cybersecurity Faculty Fellow, Metova CyberCENTS Training Vice President Greg Smith and Ken Powell, Metova CyberCENTS network engineer, served as instructors for the sessions. Steven Bazzell, UWF Center for Cybersecurity server administrator, and Chad Hoye, UWF Center for Cybersecurity student assistant, provided support for the Florida Cyber Range.

The instructors, with backgrounds in the academia, military and industry sectors, offered a wealth of expertise in cybersecurity.

“Instructors were really great. That was a strong point,” said Steven Barnes, a systems programmer at the Department of Environmental Protection who participated in the inaugural session. “They were excellent.”

The inaugural session provided the instructors an opportunity to seek feedback from participants and determine what modules to prioritize and minimize in future sessions. Jim Jackson, a distributive computer systems consultant at AST, said the first day covered the book material and the second day focused on advanced activities. He recommended a day in between for the instructors to explain and demonstrate how the book material applies to the work setting.

Overall, Jackson considered the training session to be a success and predicts state agency personnel will benefit from the partnership between the UWF Center for Cybersecurity and AST.

“You’re going to find that state employees love any kind of training,” Jackson said. “I think that’s why (AST Executive Director and State Chief Information Officer Eric Larson) is trying to get these things going – to increase the overall knowledge of security awareness – and I think that’s a great undertaking for us.”