Head start in cybersecurity career

cybersecurity interns

By Douglas Esser
Headlines about hacked emails and the theft of millions of names from databases highlight the vulnerability of digital information and the growing need for cybersecurity. Ten University of Washington Bothell students have a head start in cybersecurity careers as capstone interns in a new partnership with T-Mobile, learning how to protect information from hackers, viruses and loss.

The three business and seven computing and software systems (CSS) students were selected as the first group in a program pairing workforce training and UW Bothell classes approved by the National Security Agency (NSA). The result will be graduates who are prepared to be productive when they start jobs in the demanding and complex field.

“I was very fortune to get this internship. It’s a field that’s growing very quickly, and I want to go on that path,” says Aparna Suntosh, right, who is graduating this spring in business. “There’s a shortage of qualified people. So it’s a really big opportunity.”

Aparna Suntosh

A lack of prepared cybersecurity talent is the No. 1 problem cited by employers worldwide in this arena, says Barbara Endicott-Popovsky, executive director of the Center for Information Assurance and Cybersecurity. CIAC relocated its education arm last year to UW Bothell.

T-Mobile is the first of several regional businesses expected to partner with CIAC so that industry needs and guidance are integrated into education and research. The interns who started work this month are gaining a broad exposure to how the telecommunications company secures information and thwarts attacks on data. Managers say they are impressed with the quality of participating students.

“We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with UW Bothell in this important effort to increase the regional cybersecurity workforce,” said William Boni, vice president of enterprise information and chief information security officer.

T-Mobile logo

In addition to Suntosh, the other UW Bothell business students are Malik Bseikri and, Daniel DuBois. The computing and software systems students are Caitlin Cunningham, Swetha Kumar, Thida Myint, Jessica Nguyen, Michael Su. Cody Snow and Midori Williams.

Students are paid to work a flexible schedule of 15 to 20 hours a week at T-Mobile offices in Bothell, Bellevue or Snoqualimie. They’re learning systems that regulate access to data and prevent unauthorized changes, disclosure or destruction.

Business majors are included because the program takes a systems approach that crosses disciplines. Cybersecurity is about more than building firewalls, says Endicott-Popovsky.

CIAC is recognized by the NSA as a center for academic excellence in research and in cyber defense education. The center is a resource center for 12 western states. The UW Bothell program is designed to show how to optimize student learning and serve as a model for other schools.

Concurrent with the internship, the students also are taking a UW Professional and Continuing Education (PCE) course to earn a certificate in information security and risk management.

Students and T-Mobile have no obligation to each other after the internship, but, “If things go right, it could be a possibility. If that works out I’d love to work for the company,” Suntosh says.

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