Category: Cai

ROTC Cybersecurity Training for Tomorrow’s Officers

The U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research, has awarded Michigan Tech faculty researchers a $249,000 grant that supports the creation of an ROTC undergraduate science and engineering research program at Michigan Tech. The primary goal of the program is to supply prepared cadets to all military branches to serve as officers in Cyber commands.

The principal investigator (PI) of the project is Andrew Barnard, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. Co-PIs are Timothy Havens, College of Computing; Laura Brown , Computer Science, and Yu Cai, Applied Computing. The title of the project is, “Defending the Nation’s Digital Frontier: Cybersecurity Training for Tomorrow’s Officers.”

The curriculum will be developed over the summer, and instruction associated with the award will begin in the fall 2020 semester. Cadets interested in joining the new program are urged to contact Andrew Barnard.

Initially, the program will focus on topics in cybersecurity, machine learning and artificial intelligence, data science, and remote sensing systems, all critical to the The Naval Science and Technology (S&T) Strategic Plan and the Navy’s Force of the Future, and with equal relevance in all branches of the armed forces.

The plan of work focuses on on engaging ROTC students in current and on-going Cyber research, and supports recruitment of young ROTC engineers and scientists to serve in Navy cybersecurity and cyber-systems commands. The program will compel cadets to seek positions within Cyber commands upon graduation, or pursue graduate research in Cyber fields.

“Our approach develops paid, research-based instruction for ROTC students through the existing Michigan Tech Strategic Education Naval Systems Experiences (SENSE) program,” said principal investigator Andrew Barnard, “ROTC students will receive one academic year of instruction in four Cyber domains: cybersecurity, machine learning and artificial intelligence (ML/AI), data science, and remote sensing systems.”

Barnard says the cohort-based program will enrich student learning through deep shared research experiences. He says the program will be designed with flexibility and agility in mind to quickly adapt to new and emerging Navy science and technology needs in the Cyber domain. 

Placement of officers in Cyber commands is of critical long-term importance to the Navy (and other DoD branches) in maintaining technological superiority, says the award abstract, noting that technological superiority directly influences the capability and safety of the warfighter.

Also closely involved in the project are Michigan Tech Air Force and Army ROTC officers Lt. Col. John O’Kane and LTC Christian Thompson, respectively.

“Unfortunately, many ROTC cadets are either unaware of Cyber related careers, or are unprepared for problems facing Cyber officers,” said Lt. Col. O’Kane. “This proposal aims to provide a steady flow of highly motivated and trained uniformed officers to the armed-services, capable of supporting the warfighter on day-one.”

Andrew Barnard is director of Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center, an associate professor of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, and faculty advisor to the SENSE Enterprise.

Tim Havens is director of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems, associate dean for research, College of Computing, and the William and Gloria Jackson Associate Professor of Computer Systems.

Laura Brown is an associate professor, Computer Science, director of the Data Science graduate program, and a member of the ICC’s Center for Data Sciences.

Yu Cai is a professor of Applied Computing, an affiliated professor of Computational Science and Engineering, a member of the ICC’s Center for Cybersecurity, and faculty advisor for the Red Team, which competes in the National Cyber League (NCL).

The Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) provides state-of-the-art laboratories to support research on a broad array of topics. Faculty members from many departments across Michigan Technological University’s campus collaborate on interdisciplinary research, ranging from air–water interactions to biogeochemistry to food web relationships.

The Army and Air Force have active ROTC programs on Michigan Tech’s campus.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) coordinates, executes, and promotes the science and technology programs of the United States Navy and Marine Corps.


Congratulations, RedTeam@MTU!

National Cyber League Logo

RedTeam@MTU, one of Michigan Tech’s National Cyber League (NCL) teams, placed 8th out of 689 teams in the recent NCL Fall 2019 cyber competition team game. The team consists of seven College of Computing undergraduate and graduate students: Alexander Larkin, John Claassen, Jack Bergman, Jon Preuth, Trevor Hornsby, Shane Hoppe, and Matthew Chau. In addition, two RedTeam@MTU team members ranked in the top 100 out of 4149 players in the individual game: John Claassen (67th) and Alex Larkin (70th).

“This is a breakthrough since first joining the NCL competition in Fall 2017,” said faculty coach Bo Chen, assistant professor of computer science. “Congratulations to the RedTeam and John Claasen and Alex Larkin!”

Three teams and 21 players from Michigan Tech were involved this season, most of them with the RedTeam@MTU, a student organization which exists to promote a security-driven mindset among the student population, and to provide a community and resource for those wishing to learn more about information security.  The RedTeam is co-advised by Bo Chen and Yu Cai, professor in the College of Computing.

Students from hundreds of U.S. universities participated during the Fall 2019 NCL season, which comprised a week-long Preseason placement game, followed by a weekend Individual Game, and culminating in a weekend Team Game. A total of 689 teams and 4149 players  participated.

In addition, Michigan Tech ranks 11th among the top 100 colleges and universities in the “Team” Cyber Power Rankings, 51st in the Individual Rank, and 23rd in the Participation Rank. The Cyber Power Rankings were created by Cyber Skyline in partnership with the National Cyber League (NCL). The rankings represent the ability of students from these schools to perform real-world cybersecurity tasks on the Cyber Skyline platform, such as identify hackers from forensic data, pentest and audit vulnerable websites, recover from ransomware attacks, and more. Schools are ranked based on their top team performance, their top student’s individual performance, and the aggregate individual performance of their students. View the full ranking list at https://cyberskyline.com/data/power-ranking/fall-2019-national.

Founded in 2011 to provide an ongoing virtual training ground for participants to develop, practice, and validate their cybersecurity skills, the NCL is a defensive and offensive puzzle-based, capture-the-flag style cybersecurity competition. Its virtual training ground helps high school and college students prepare and test themselves against cybersecurity challenges that they will likely face in the workforce. All participants played the games simultaneously during all of the Fall season games.

The NCL challenges are based on the CompTIA Security+™ and EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)™ performance-based exam objectives and include the following content: Open Source Intelligence, Scanning, Enumeration and Exploitation, Password Cracking, Traffic Analysis, Log Analysis, Wireless Security, Cryptography, and Web Application Security. Players of all levels can participate in the NCL games. Through easy, medium and hard challenges, students have multiple opportunities to excel.

Learn more about the NCL at: https://www.nationalcyberleague.org/.

Cyber Skyline Logo

Cyber Skyline is an immersive cloud platform on which to practice, develop, and measure technical cybersecurity skills. It is built for Incident Response Handlers, Security & Network Engineers, SOC Analysts, Software Engineers, Pentesters, and more. Visit the Cyber Skyline website at: https://cyberskyline.com.


GenCyber Camp for Teachers Garners Local Media Coverage

Michigan Tech hosted two week-long GenCyber camps this summer. The first, held June 17–21, 2019, hosted 30 local middle/high school students. The second camp, August 12–16, 2019, hosted 21 local K-12 teachers. Camp participants gained cybersecurity knowledge, understood correct and safe online behavior, and explored ways to deliver cybersecurity content in K-12 curricula.

A story about the GenCyber teacher camp was reported on August 16, 2019, by TV6: “GenCyber cyber security training camp comes to Michigan Tech” and on August 13, 2019, by the Keweenaw Report: “Teachers Learn How To Include Cybersecurity In Their Lessons.”

Learn more about the camps on the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems blog: https://blogs.mtu.edu/icc/2019/06/04/inspiring-the-next-generation-of-cyber-stars-2/.


Inspiring the Next Generation of Cyber Stars

Yu CaiGenCyber LogoBy Karen S. Johnson, ICC Communications Director

We live in a world where pretty much everything and everybody – individuals, companies, governments, critical infrastructure – are increasingly dependent on connected systems, networks and devices. And, as newspaper headlines reveal, those systems may be insecure and vulnerable to hackers.

“Nowadays, everybody is using computers, and more and more things are connected. That provides convenience, flexibility, a lot of great things, but it also opens the doors for hackers,” says Yu Cai, associate professor and program chair for the Computer Network and System Administration program at Michigan Technological University.

“The world has increasingly become a combination of the physical world and the cyber world,” Cai adds. “That’s why cybersecurity is important, because you want to protect yourself. As human beings, we evolved over thousands of years to take care of our security in the physical world. But in the cyber world, many don’t have a very good idea of how to protect themselves.”

Cai is principal investigator on two grant awards, each for about $85K, which are making possible two free, non-residential, week-long GenCyber summer camps on Michigan Tech’s campus. The first camp, for middle school and high school students, is the week of June 17. The second camp, for K-12 STEM teachers, is the week of August 12. Both camps and all learning materials are offered at no cost to camp participants. Each participant will receive a Raspberry Pi minicomputer. Breakfast and lunch are provided. For enrollment information, visit mtu.edu/gencyber.

Funded jointly by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), the goals of the nationwide GenCyber program are to increase interest in cybersecurity careers and diversity in the national cybersecurity workforce, help students understand correct and safe on-line behavior and how they can be good digital citizens, and improve teaching methods for delivery of cybersecurity content in K-12 curricula.

“This is part of our picture to make Michigan Tech a leader in cybersecurity research and education,” Cai says of this summer’s GenCyber camps. “We have other cybersecurity curriculum development grants that focus on college education, now we want to outreach to K through 12.”

In both camp sessions, participants will explore the world of cybersecurity through real-world case studies, hands-on learning activities and games, interactive lectures, career exploration, and field trips. Covered topics include safe online behavior, cyber ethics, fundamental computer and network knowledge, and cybersecurity career options and educational opportunities.

“We’ll also cover common vulnerabilities and weaknesses of computer systems, such as how hackers get into the systems, and how systems can be strengthened to defeat hackers against the hundreds of vulnerabilities,” Cai adds.

Tim Van Wagner, a lecturer at Michigan Tech and a co-PI on the grants, is the lead teacher for the camps. Cai and his other co-PIs—associate professor Guy Hembroff and assistant professor Bo Chen—will also present learning modules and assist with the camps.

K-12 pedagogical expertise in curriculum development was provided by Copper Country Intermediate School District (CCISD) staff members Emily Gochis, Director of the Region 16 MiSTEM Network, and Steve Kass, Educational Technologist.

“Steve and Emily provided a lot of input and suggestions regarding the camp curriculum and advised us in the best practices for teaching high school students,” Cai says, adding that they are also helping to promote the camps in local public schools.

Driving the curriculum are four principles: Learning by Storytelling, Learning by Doing, Learning by Gaming, and Learning by Teaching. Cai and his team will be assessing the effectiveness of these principles using several methods. The resulting research will be shared with the GenCyber program and the public.

The two grants are titled, “Innovative GenCyber Learning Experience for K-12 Teachers Through Storytelling + Teaching + Gaming + Doing” and “Innovative GenCyber Learning Experience for High School Students Through Storytelling + Teaching + Gaming + Doing.”


Yu Cai is PI on $82K NSA/NSF Grant

Yu CaiYu Cai (TTEC/ICC) is Principal Investigator on a project that has received a $82,416 Other Sponsored Activities Grant from the National Security Agency/National Science Foundation. The one-year project is titled, “Innovation GenCyber Learning Experience for High School Students Through Storytelling + Teaching + Gaming + Doing.” Bo Chen (SCS), Guy Hembroff (TTEC), and Tim Van Wagner (TTEC), are co-PIs.


Free Cybersecurity Summer Camps

GenCyber LogoMichigan Tech will offer two non-residential, week-long GenCyber camps this summer. The first camp is for local middle school and high school students (grades 7-12) and will be held the week of June 17. The second camp is for local K-12 STEM teachers and will be held the week of August 12.

Explore the world of cybersecurity with experts in the field through fun, real-world learning experiences. Camp activities include hands-on exercises, interactive lectures, games, career exploration, and campus tours.

All camp activities will be offered at no cost to camp participants. Visit mtu.edu/gencyber to learn more and register.

Funding of the camps is provided jointly by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).


Yu Cai Is PI on NSA Project

Yu CaiYu Cai (SoT/ICC), is principal investigator on a project that has received a $87,895 other sponsored activities grant from the National Security Agency for the project “Innovative GenCyber Learning Experience for K-12 Teachers Through Storytelling + Teaching + Gaming + Doing.” Bo Chen (CS), Guy Hembroff (SoT), and Tim Van Wagner (SoT) are Co-PIs on this project.


Three ICC Members are Nominated for the 2017 Distinguished Teaching Awards

Three ICC members are finalists in the 2017 Distinguished Teaching Awards presented by The William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning. Nominees are recognized for their outstanding contributions to the instructional mission of the University. Based on more than 50,000 student ratings of instruction responses, ten finalists have been identified for the 2017 awards. The ICC member finalists are:

Associate Professor / Professor Category

  • Mari Buche (DataS), Associate Professor
  • Yu Cai (CyberS), Associate Professor

Assistant Professor / Lecturer / Professor of Practice Category

  • Jeffrey Wall (CyberS), Assistant Professor