Students Help Build The IoT Lab In Their CyberSecurity Program | A Conversation With Florida Tech's Dr. TJ OConnor And Daniel Campos


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Students need real-world scenarios to help them round out their education as they prepare to build their career in the real world. If this is true for any educational curriculum, it is even more critical in cybersecurity. A balanced diet of theory, tools, knowledge, and hands-on experience is recommended, and the Florida Tech model of learning offers this—and it doesn't stop there.

In the Florida Tech IoT Security And Privacy Lab, students not only get the hands-on, tools-enabled, real-world environment and experience they are craving, they actually helped build the lab, and, in the process, helped to shape the cybersecurity and privacy program in which the lab resides.

From The IoT Lab Website
Expanding the transparency and control of IoT devices by examining the state of security and privacy within Internet-of-Things (IoT) ecosystems. Usable security and privacy | Machine learning approaches for transparency | Novel attack vectors | Systemic design failures

In this podcast, we talk about this topic, and we look at it from both sides: the teacher's vision and mission and the students' experience and feedback.

"If someone comes up to me and they say, 'we do it this way, because, you know,' and they can give a variety of reasons... and never really give you reason past, 'it just works' - this can be a little bit frustrating, especially when you're looking to develop skills for practical application."—Daniel Campos

Sometimes understanding both the problem and the solution requires creating the environment through which the learning will take place. Since critical thinking is a necessary mindset for cybersecurity professionals, Dr. OConnor and his students are taking the steps required to establish this mindset and not simply accept the status quo.

"After we received the funding, we went to Walmart and Amazon and we purchased just about every IoT device that that we could find: digital assistants that record your voice like Alexa or Google Home; we purchase security cameras that you're supposed to put outside to protect yourself; wireless doorbells; we've got 10 different locks connected to 10 different doors in there that are all working over different protocols like Zigbee, Z-wave, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. I think we're on order of about 50-60 devices in there now, and it continually grows every week."— Dr. OConnor

Bringing reality even more to the forefront, students have the opportunity to engage in bug bounty programs which not only gives them a goal, but also gives them even more incentive to go that extra mile to dig deeper and then responsibly disclose their vulnerability findings with the device vendor.

This is a topic of conversation that certainly will not stop here, just like cybersecurity programs development and professional life-long education.


Dr. TJ OConnor, Cybersecurity Program Chair, Florida Institute of Technology (Florida Tech) | @tj_oconnnor on Twitter

Daniel Campos, Student, MS in CS, Florida Institute of Technology (Florida Tech)

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