CG Cyberspace Workforce Spotlight Q+A: Cmdr. Joseph Benin

In recognition of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we interviewed Cmdr. Joseph Benin, Ph.D., PE, associate professor of electrical engineering and director of academic advising at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

The goal of the spotlight is to highlight the current curriculum and tasks given to students in the cyber field, how the field has changed with the times, and the new courses that have emerged in an effort to best prepare students for the growing cyber workforce.

Below is the interview we conducted with Benin, who took the time to give an educator’s perspective of the growing cyber field:

How long have you been a faculty member at the Coast Guard Academy (CGA)?

From 2005-2009 and 2012 on (this is my 10th year teaching at CGA). I am also an adjunct associate professor of computer science at Connecticut College.

How has the cyber field changed in recent years?

How hasn’t it? I think the cyber field has existed since 600 B.C. and the time of Thales. While the terms, body of knowledge encompassed, technology, and applications change, the skills of being highly analytical, a good communicator, having attention to detail, utilizing the engineering design cycle, and the ability to be successful in modeling and solving problems has not. Thus at CGA we focus on these fundamentals in developing cyber-competent leaders of character. Such buzzwords as Advanced Persistent Threats, Big Data, Blockchain Technology, Critical Infrastructure, the Cloud, Machine Learning, Internet of Things, Cyber Resilience, Risk Management, SCADA→ICS→CPS, Software Defined Radio/Networking, and Unified Threat Management represent some of the bigger foci of the recent years.

What new courses have emerged in an effort to best prepare students for the growing cyber workforce?

It has been extremely exciting to see the changes at the CGA in response to the expansive need that exists within our service and the world. Three years ago a new summer cyber training program was launched for all 2/c cadets. The CGA cyber team was launched two years ago and has some incredible cyber talent who are well positioned to have an immediate impact in the Coast Guard. In terms of curriculum, new courses across the curriculum have been instantiated: Intelligence and Cyber Operations (within Humanities), Geospatial Sciences (in Science), Cryptology (in Mathematics), Cyber Risk Management (within Management), and Computer and Network Security (within Engineering) to name a few. The academy is currently developing three new courses (including an introductory Information Security course we hope becomes a free elective of choice) to meet the DHS/NSA Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education. We are also extremely grateful for the recent work of the CGA alumni association in funding a new cyber flexible learning laboratory, server room, and active learning classroom scheduled for completion in summer 2018.

What channels have you and other faculty members been focused on in order to keep the curriculum in line with the growing cyber field?

The CGA strives to align its cyber education and training with industry, government, and academic best practices. In so doing, we leverage both formal and informal partnerships within the Coast Guard (CGCYBER, CG6, CG791, DCMS81, CG2, CG-FAC, CG-5P, RDCEN, etc.) and beyond (DHS, ICS-CERT, NIST, and various academic institutions).

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