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Educating the Next Generation of Cybersecurity Professionals


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Louisiana Tech has been recognized as one of America’s Top Colleges in Forbes, as the No. 1 college in the state of Louisiana for value in Kiplinger’s, and as a Top Tier research university in US News and World Report for 10 years. The University has a history of and commitment to creating programs that are the first in their fields, like biomedical and cyber engineering. Louisiana Tech’s partnerships with business, government and the military help create both academic programs and job development in the I-20 Cyber Corridor.

Associate Professor Dr. Brad Glisson joined the faculty at Louisiana Tech University seven months ago to help the Computer Science Department strengthen its digital forensics, cybersecurity and cybercrime, and reverse engineering capabilities. Digital forensics, he explained, boils down to “the extraction of any type of digital data off any type of digital media so it will stand up in a court of law.”

Over the course of his 15-year academic career, Glisson’s research and academic focus has been on digital forensics. He teaches students by the book, building from fundamentals and learning manual techniques first.

“We show them the hex editor,” Glisson said. “Then these are the magic numbers. This is how you carve–and then we let them do it a few times by hand. And then we show them the tools.”

The method works, and Glisson has taken it with him throughout his career, from the University of Glasgow, to the University of South Alabama, Sam Houston State, and now Louisiana Tech.

Preparing Students for Careers in Cybersecurity

Despite more and more attention being paid to cybersecurity and the threats posed by black hat hacking, ransomware, and data breaches, the United States faces a critical shortage of trained cybersecurity and digital forensics professionals. To address this shortage, the government has established programs like the National Science Foundation’s CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service program and the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Cyber Scholarship Program – and Louisiana Tech has embraced them.

Through these programs, Louisiana Tech helps meet industry and government demands for cybersecurity professionals, and undergraduates and graduate students receive scholarships in return for a commitment to pursue careers in cybersecurity with government agencies or national labs to defend the nation in cyberspace.

Glisson said. “It pays for them to go to school, their books, tuition, a stipend. It’s a great opportunity. With the DoD, they have assigned internships and jobs waiting for them, where with the NSF, they have a little more flexibility about where they go and what government agency they work for.”

The expectation for students in these programs – and others pursuing careers in cybersecurity – is that they have familiarity with an industry-accepted digital forensics technology. And that’s where FTK comes into the picture.

Wherever he has taught, including now at Tech, Glisson’s technology of choice is Exterro FTK®.

“I’m very familiar with FTK, which of course helps,” he said. “It’s very easy and intuitive for students to pick up once we’ve shown them the hard way, then we show them an easier way with FTK. Over the years, I’ve spoken with many professional practitioners, and the word that I get back is that they want students to be familiar with an industry-accepted toolkit. FTK is very usable. It’s intuitive. And it pulls everything together.”

Students at Louisiana Tech aren’t limited by learning with FTK; it opens doors for them.

“Once they’re familiar with FTK, then it’s not really difficult to get them to pick up another technology,” Glisson explained. “If they want to use a secondary toolkit to verify the data that they’re getting from their primary, it’s straightforward. It’s a nice balance between teaching students theory, practice, and meeting industry needs.

Achieving More with Exterro FTK

“We love to partner with academic institutions,” explained Dirk Simmons, Exterro Account Manager for State, Local, and Educational Institutions. “We love seeing students learn how to use FTK. They earn professional certifications while they’re still students, and they earn real-world experience through their internships. That helps them get hired with the government, police agencies, or even conducting investigations for established private firms like Deloitte.”

Glisson currently teaches courses in Digital Forensics and Digital Crime, as well as Reverse Engineering, using FTK technology, and it has applications for Incident Response course work as well.

Glisson said. “Once they use it, they don’t want to go back to working cases by hand. It’s been really well received.” He also teaches Advanced Networking.

Glisson’s students recently participated in the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, which gives students practical experience running and protecting a corporate network environment in the face of today’s cybersecurity threats.

“It’s an intense two-day, eight-hours-a-day training camp. The students learn a lot of IT and cybersecurity in a pressurized environment. They have to figure out what’s on their network, and then protect all the boxes, and perform standard business operations,” he explained. “And there’s a professional red team that’s attacking your system the entire time you’re fielding these requests and having to keep your network up and running.”

In just their second year in the competition, Louisiana Tech’s team advanced to the regionals – a real feather in their cap. And with Glisson’s expertise and FTK technology, there’s no doubt that it’s not the last impressive success these cyber-scholars will achieve.

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