UH West O‘ahu’s Emergent Cyber Defense Education Program

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency recognized UH West O‘ahu’s cyber defense education program as one of the top programs in the nation—with a designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, nearly one in five Americans have been a victim of a cybercrime—resulting in more than $15.4 million in annual losses for the average U.S. firm. As a result of this troubling trend, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that the number of information security analysts and computer network architects will grow by 18 percent and nine percent respectively from 2014 to 2024—ranking well above the national average of seven percent for all other jobs.

In response to this growing threat and to make sure that undergraduates in Hawai‘i have an opportunity and the necessary skills to compete in the rapidly expanding area of cyberspace operations, the University of Hawai‘i at West O‘ahu (UH West O‘ahu) developed its Bachelor of Applied Science degree with a concentration in Information Security and Assurance (BAS-ISA).

The BAS-ISA, a first-of-its-kind program at a public institution in Hawai‘i, offers courses in digital forensics, secure software programming and information security management, among others, in partnership with the UH Community Colleges. The concentration on ISA offers both a four-year program at UH West O‘ahu and transfer pathways for University of Hawai‘i Community College students who have completed articulated Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees. Enrollment in the program has grown steadily from 13 students in 2014 to 108 students in the 2018 academic year under the guidance of Dr. Matthew Chapman, associate professor of Information Technology and Cybersecurity.

Dr. Matthew Chapman

Chapman, an experienced computer scientist, served for more than 24 years as an officer in the U.S. Army in a number of varied positions nationally and internationally, including combat and operational deployments in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.  Prior to joining UH West O‘ahu, Chapman served as the chief of cyberspace operations at the U.S. Pacific Command and the branch chief for command, control, communications, and cyberspace strategy and architecture.

One of the key elements of Chapman’s program revolves around the UH West O‘ahu’s Cyber Security Coordination Center (CSCC), established though the support of the Office of Naval Research, to further promote cyber workforce development.

“The purpose of the UH West O‘ahu Cyber Security Coordination Center is to provide students with an opportunity to work in a cyber operations center and coordinate cyber defense information with local and regional partners,” said Chapman, who also serves as the faculty lead and director of the center. “This center provides students with experience and education as network defense subject matter experts in order to prepare them for future employment in industry or the Department of Defense.”

The CSCC also supports information security needs in the community and region by acting as a resource to learn about modern cyber conflicts, emerging threats and the latest development in information security. Student internship positions include: global cyber analyst, vulnerabilities researcher, best practices analyst, digital forensics analyst, and industrial control systems cybersecurity analyst. Actual reports compiled by the student analysts are available to the public at www.uhwo.hawaii.edu/cyber. Chapman added that the reports offer a way of keeping current on cyberattacks around the world and learning the best practices on avoiding or coping with the dangers.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency recognized UH West O‘ahu’s cyber defense education program as one of the top programs in the nation—with a designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.

To qualify, two- and four-year accredited colleges must submit cyber defense curriculum and demonstrate achievement in areas including, program outreach and collaboration, student development and research initiatives.  The program was established by the NSA to formally recognize schools deemed to have high-quality cybersecurity academics in response to a need for more professionals to protect public and private sector networks.  Earlier, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa earned national designation for its research in cyber defense, while Honolulu Community College received its designation for its educational program as a two-year campus.  The designations are valid for five years.

“All of our campuses participate in cyber defense education,” said Chapman. “We try not to duplicate capabilities among the UH System campuses—so cyber defense education is primarily centered around what we do at UH West O‘ahu.”

The success of the UH West O‘ahu program has been demonstrated by both employment opportunities for students and graduates, including: American Savings Bank, Aulani—A Disney Resort & Spa, BAE Systems, Booz Allen Hamilton, Elemental Excelerator, Four Seasons Ko Olina, Hawaiʻi USA Federal Credit Union, Hawaiian Airlines, Hawaiian Telcom, Hilton Worldwide, Lockheed Martin, National Security Agency, Pacxa, Protiviti, Referentia Systems Inc., Spectrum, TEKsystems, Unisys, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and ZR Systems.

Students discuss emerging cyber threats in the Cyber Security Coordination Center at UH West O‘ahu

Chapman’s program has also garnered national attention by top performances in national cyber competitions, specifically the National Cyber League (NCL)—taking home the national championship in 2016 and a runner up finish the following year. 

“The BAS-ISA program has become one of our signature programs,” said UH West O‘ahu Chancellor Maenette Benham. “Our program not only fulfills an urgent workforce need in the cybersecurity arena, but it also provides all of our students, including Native Hawaiian and other underserved groups in our West O‘ahu community, with an opportunity for a rewarding and meaningful career in a growing and exciting field.”