New grant will allow South Carolina college to become a training ground for ‘cyberwarriors’

By TYLER FLEMING | The (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) Sun News | Published: January 23, 2019

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (Tribune News Service) — Horry Georgetown Technical College is about to become a training ground for a new kind of national defense: cybersecurity.

Every day, bad people are trying to hack into online bank accounts, websites and databases in hopes of illegally taking digital resources for themselves. On Wednesday, HGTC announced it received a $750,000 grant from the Office of Naval Research to help teach students the skills to keep the nation and its citizens safe online. In addition, the college will enter an educational partnership with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic out of Charleston.

Starting in the fall of 2020, the grant will create a new Security Operations Center Cyber Range and Forensics Lab on the technical college’s campus. In this new center, students will get real-world experience in keeping cyber networks safe.

“This grant and the educational partnership will allow us to not only fill critical cybersecurity jobs, but it will also allow us to have the state-of-the-art technology and resources that are necessary to meet the cybersecurity training needs across South Carolina,” said HGTC President Marilyn Fore.

South Carolina has seen a 134 percent growth in the cybersecurity sector during the past five years, and more than 2,000 jobs need candidates to fill them. Fore hopes those roles will be filled with HGTC-trained students.

Currently, HGTC offers a certificate in cybersecurity. Thanks to the additional funding, students will be able to get associate’s degrees on the subject, with the hopes that students will be able to take jobs at the Charleston systems center once they graduate.

Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Williams, an executive officer with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic, said cybersecurity is a new type of warfare that the U.S. needs to be prepared for in an increasingly digital world.

“Our goal is simply to ensure the safety of our networks, our communities, our systems, not just for the Navy, but all our business partners,” Williams said. “The war on cybersecurity is a war indeed.”

Williams said telemarketers can try to get data from people and figure out how to steal money from bank accounts. Without trained professionals keeping an eye on hackers and making sure security systems are up to date, these people might be successful in robbing government agencies and American citizens.

“Before you know it, you start to see little bits of your account disappearing, they figured out how to tap into your account,” Williams said. “Someone has to be the guard, someone has to be watching, waiting and capturing those individuals before they break into your account.”

Williams was joined by Fore, professor and retired Navy Capt. Stanton Greenawalt, and Joe Henline, a deputy with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center. All the speakers said they were excited for the Myrtle Beach area to become a hub for training “cyberwarriors.”

Graduates of the program will be equipped to work in a variety of industries and with employers like the government, the military, health care providers and the private sector.

Greenawalt said a longer-term goal is to help high school students learn more about cybersecurity and computer science through the program.

“We’re going to be building a cyber(warfare) range,” Greenawalt said. “A unique range, unique to the Southeast, that will allow students and professional opportunities way beyond our expectations.”

©2019 The Sun News (Myrtle Beach, S.C.)
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