Kevin Stiner | August 14, 2023

Securing a Place in Cyberspace

Alum and Cyber Security Hall of Famer, Gene Spafford ’79, offers three key pieces of advice for future cybersecurity majors.

Cybersecurity focuses on the creation, operation, analysis, and testing of secure computer systems, networks, and online data from attack and compromise.

“With our increased reliance on computers and networks and connected devices, we’re seeing more and more breaches on a daily basis,” said Mehruz Kamal, associate professor and chair of the Department of Computing Sciences. “And so there is this tremendous need to protect our systems.”

Cybersecurity majors learn how to identify and troubleshoot security lapses through both instruction and hands-on sessions in the brand new cybersecurity lab. The lab features specialized hardware and software that allows students to obtain hands-on experience with security tools to help understand how cyberattacks are carried out and what needs to be done to prevent such attacks from happening.

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates a 33% job growth rate over the next 10 years. Here in Rochester, almost 40% of jobs are going unfilled, and so once we graduate the first bath of students and going forward it will help meet that need.”
Mehruz Kamal

Although the cybersecurity major at SUNY Brockport did not launch until 2023, our alums have already made their mark on the field.

In the late 80s, Gene Spafford ’79 was teaching computer science at Purdue University when one of the first high-profile cybersecurity attacks garnered national attention. The Morris Worm caused computers connected to the internet to dramatically slow down or even come to a complete halt. Spafford investigated the Morris Worm to isolate, analyze, and clean up after it.

Throughout his career, Spafford developed open-source security tools such as COPS, Tripwire, early firewalls, and intrusion-detection systems. His contributions led to his status as one of the founders of cyber forensics, which provides legally admissible evidence for investigations by collecting and analyzing digital data.

Spafford’s work in the field culminated with his induction into the Cyber Security Hall of Fame in 2013. The Department of Computing Sciences consulted with Spafford during its pursuit of Cybersecurity as a major.

“I think Cybersecurity is something that is going to have longevity and a great potential to serve students,” said Spafford. “More importantly it’s going to have an opportunity to improve the community and give Brockport a greater ability to integrate and support the community and University. For that reason, I’m really excited about the possibilities.”

Now more than ever before, people are in constant contact with the internet. Alongside this increased reliance on technology, the growing number of interactions has resulted in a greater threat of data breach, elevating the need for cybersecurity professionals.

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates a 33% job growth rate over the next 10 years,” shared Dr. Kamal. “Here in Rochester, almost 40% of jobs are going unfilled. Once we graduate the first batch of students and going forward it will help meet that need.”

Three Tips from a Hall of Famer

Spafford offered three pieces of advice to students considering the cybersecurity major.

  1. Have an inquisitive mind and want to solve problems.
  2. Have the desire to express yourself in your writing, because so much of programming is writing in a structured language.
  3. Do not be afraid of the kind of logic and thinking that goes into mathematics. The idea of approaching things logically, breaking them down into components, and solving those components using logic again, goes to a lot of what we do in computing and much of what we do in cybersecurity has computing at its base.
Gene Spafford '79