By Dolly Rairigh Glass

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With the growing concern over cyberattacks, whether on private corporations, the government, or our military, University of Central Florida (a Team Orlando member) recently announced the addition of a graduate certificate in behavioral cybersecurity, as part of the UCF Modeling and Simulation graduate program, one of the most respected programs in the country.

The graduate certificate in Modeling and Simulation of behavioral cybersecurity is a 13-hour certificate program that provides students with specialized training and knowledge in M&S fundamentals, techniques, and applications toward the behavioral aspects of cybersecurity, with a special emphasis on proactive planning, as well as reactive strategies to minimize damage.

“At University of Central Florida, we focus on human-centric modeling and simulation,” said Dr. Peter Kincaid, co-director, UCF’s M&S graduate program. “This new certificate is similar and pays particular attention to the behavior that characterizes and contributes to this kind of activity in addition to the traditional aspects of cybersecurity, such as firewall protection. Our entire M&S program is highly interdisciplinary, and this certificate will be as well. We will use modeling and simulation as a major tool for analysis.”

UCF is considered one of the premier academic institutions in the U.S. to offer truly interdisciplinary graduate studies in M&S, one of the first of its kind in the world. It was initiated in 2001-2002 with directions from high university officials to create a multidisciplinary program, and although most of the modeling and simulation graduate programs are part of the computer science or engineering departments, the program currently draws classes and faculty from a dozen or more academic areas.

“The certificate is being offered on a part-time basis, requiring one course each semester for four semesters,” said Sabrina Kalish, M.A., coordinator for Modeling & Simulation Graduate Program. “We hope to attract a mix of working professionals and students from a variety of other programs at UCF.”

Kalish added that national market research has identified a demand in supply for certified specialists. “The recent headlines about major hacks into large corporations is making everyone aware of how vulnerable they might be, and now we need educated specialists to help mitigate that,” Kalish said.

One of the unique features of the program is what surrounds its home at University of Central Florida in Orlando. The Central Florida region is the world’s epicenter for modeling and simulation, and an important part of that ongoing and growing success is the partnership between the university and Team Orlando, one that dates back many years.

Pair that with the M&S expertise that surrounds them in the Central Florida Research Park, a campus-like environment adjacent to UCF that houses hundreds of M&S industries, and the result is a strong university program supported and complemented by institutions and corporations providing real life experience.

“Cybersecurity is an emerging area in which we need to grow our workforce, and we are always looking to improve the skills of our workforce,” said Team Orlando’s Capt. Wes Naylor, commanding officer of the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD). “This is good for Central Florida and our Team Orlando partners. Cyber awareness and cybersecurity are issues the Department of Defense will continue to press, especially with the recent hackings within the government.”

“Team Orlando has the opportunity to work with UCF as our partner, look at the road ahead and together, do real world research on emerging issues affecting not only the DoD, but the economy and the world of cyber,” said Naylor. “What we learn together, whether that’s with regard to course development or research, will bring qualitative and quantitative academic rigor to understanding and learning about cyber defense, and that’s a good thing.”

“We expect those who complete the certificate will be more marketable,” Kalish said. “And because we anticipate students with a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, earning the certificate will accomplish different goals for each of them. For example, we have a few cybersecurity professionals enrolled because while they are strong with technical skills, they are hoping to gain more experience with identifying behavioral aspects, such as motives for cybercrime and possible insider threats.”

“On the other end of the spectrum, we have folks in other programs at UCF such as criminal justice, who want to learn more about the technical aspects of cybersecurity so that they can help to inform policy,” Kalish said.

As an interdisciplinary program, students will be assigned to work on complex, hands-on projects as collaborative teams, so they will be encouraged to form groups with others whose backgrounds are different.

“These groups give our students the opportunity to consider challenges from many perspectives, and utilize that spectrum of perspectives and information to arrive at a conclusion,” Kalish said. “We feel this is one of the biggest strengths of the certificate.”

The first graduate class in the behavioral cybersecurity program begins in August. For more information about the program or to apply, visit www.ist.ucf.edu/grad.