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By the end of the fall semester, UCF graduate students can gain hands-on experience to learn the ins and outs of cybersecurity when it comes to cyberattacks and defense experiments.

With an investment of about $80,000 into its initial set up, a lab is slated to be built at UCF's Institute for Simulation and Training to solely support Cyber Operations Lab — a course for the upcoming graduate certificate in Modeling and Simulation Behavioral Cybersecurity, which is accepting applications until Wednesday.

Cliff Zou, an associate professor in the department of electrical engineering and computer science, has been setting up and preparing the lab throughout the summer, and will be teaching the three-credit-hour course.

Cyber Operations Lab is one of the four courses for the new graduate certificate, and is set to start for the spring 2016 semester.

Zou said recent cyberattacks against companies and the government have exposed the serious lack of cybersecurity and response capability.

"There is a great need of cybersecurity workforce from both public and private sectors to boost up cybersecurity capabilities, yet U.S. university systems currently have very few cybersecurity-focused education programs," he said. "As one of the largest universities in the U.S., UCF needs to have a cybersecurity education program to fill this educational gap."

Students who are enrolled in the course or admitted to the graduate certificate can make use of the lab.

Julian Montaquila, a member of UCF's Collegiate Cyber Defense Club, said because the course is a 5000-level course, seniors are also technically eligible to register for the course and use the lab based on the consent of the instructor.

The lab will help students gain essential knowledge and practical techniques in dealing with cybersecurity issues in their future careers.

Montaquila said the focus of both the new lab and graduate certificate program is to help accommodate students of varied backgrounds to increase the number of individuals with exposure and training in cybersecurity.

"Some training programs only expose students to theoretical and academic aspects of cybersecurity without providing hands-on keyboard time to supplement classroom curriculum," he said. "The development of the Cyber Operations Lab is an effort to remedy this problem, which is seen in some other training programs."

Although the course curriculum development is ongoing, Montaquila said wireless network intrusion, detection and defense will likely be covered in the lab.

"The goal of the Cyber Operations Lab is to try to bridge classroom material with a little bit of real-world practice," he said.

IST will provide initial funding to set up the lab, and Zou said 15 PCs for a student workstation, one or two PCs for servers, a few Cisco switches and a VPN router for network setup or configuration will be purchased.

"We plan to mostly use open-source, free software for cyber-operation experiments, such as software for visualization, intrusion detection, network traffic monitoring or scanning, etc.," he said.

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Rachel Stuart is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @RachSage or email her at RachelS@CentralFloridaFuture.com.

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