Students are familiar with the Crimson Tide defense on the football field, but a new student organization on campus, Crimson Defense, is quickly gaining its own fan base.
Crimson Defense is UA’s first student organization dedicated to cybersecurity. The group is comprised of students from multiple colleges and fields of study including engineering, computer science, mathematics, electrical engineering and criminal justice.
“Crimson Defense provides students with a unique, multifaceted approach to cybersecurity,” said Jake Wachs, the group’s president. “Our three-prong approach of teaching, advocating and competing allows students to find their niche in the growing field of cybersecurity.”
Crimson Defense offers lessons in cybersecurity practices such as penetration testing, malware reverse engineering and network defense principles. Groups of students within Crimson Defense regularly compete in local, state and national cybersecurity competitions. Last year, the group competed for the first time in the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition where they placed 19th in the southeastern region.
“If you’re interested in learning the basic skills necessary to enter the cyber arena, we’ll teach you.” — Jake Wachs, Crimson Defense president
Crimson Defense is passionate about establishing a program of study in cybersecurity. The group is working with UA faculty and staff to launch a cybersecurity specialization for computer science students, with the ultimate goal of creating a cybersecurity major at UA.
“Through Crimson Defense, I have learned a lot about networking and how computers interact with each other,” said group member and computer science major Zach Weske. “I have been able to see many of the risks that are out there, such as man-in-the-middle attacks or cross site scripting. This type of training helps me to be safer and smarter when it comes to dealing with sensitive information in computing.”
Crimson Defense strives to provide students with the skills necessary to obtain, and ultimately be successful in, a career in cybersecurity. Attending a Crimson Defense one-hour meeting will not turn a student into a hacker. Rather, Crimson Defense was created to expose students to the cyber world and teach them what questions to ask.
Crimson Defense regularly hosts industry representatives to share information on the status of the industry. This year, Crimson Defense has hosted technical talks from Lockheed Martin and Synopsys, with Northrop Grumman scheduled for next semester.
“The icing on the cake is our industry contacts,” said Wachs. “If you want to rub shoulders with recruiters from Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman or Synopsys, we provide the environment. Students just have to bring their programming expertise.”
Crimson Defense desires to establish a network of cybersecurity student organizations that spans to other universities, raising the next generation of U.S. cyber warriors. A long-term goal for the group is to counter militant cyber buildups in countries like China and Russia.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.