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Current student Brieann Jones on preparing for the frontlines of cyber operations

You’ve seen it consistently in the news, as recently as a few weeks ago. Another major cyber attack in the United States — DarkSide, a ransomware criminal organization, attacked Colonial Pipeline computer networks, shutting down 45% of the east coast’s oil flow, as reported by The New York Times

Panic buying and price gouging ensued as Colonial Pipeline paid $5 million in digital currency to recover its data and begin the slow process of resuming operations. Government reports concluded an additional 3-5 days of the pipeline shutdown would significantly interrupt mass transit, chemical factory production and refinery operations. 

“‘This attack has exposed just how poor our resilience is,’” Kiersten E. Todt, director of the Cyber Readiness Institute, said to The Times. The Colonial Pipeline attack triggered an executive order by the Biden administration to improve the nation’s cybersecurity.

Creating a new generation of cyber warriors

Higher education institutions play a significant role in educating and preparing future cyber warriors to answer this call and defend the public and private sectors from malicious cyber attacks. 

Foreseeing this urgent problem, Boise State University’s College of Engineering, in partnership with the Division of Extended Studies, created Cyber Operations and Resilience (CORe), including a CORe Bachelor of Science, Master of Science and a series of undergraduate and graduate certificates — all fully online. The Idaho State Board of Education gave their stamp of approval in February 2021 and the programs are now accepting applications for the fall 2021 semester. These cyber programs equip you with practical knowledge, industry certifications and the skills needed to be a cyber warrior. What’s more, CORe employs faculty from the cyber industry, so you learn from seasoned professionals on the frontlines.

Learning from industry leaders

Brieann Jones, a current cyber student.
Current cyber student, Brieann Jones. Photo provided by Brieann Jones.

Brieann Jones, a current CORe and Bachelor of Applied Science student, recently shared her experience working with Sandra Dunn, Chief Information Security Officer for Blue Cross of Idaho and Boise State adjunct faculty, in Dunn’s CPS 301 class. Jones and her classmates were tasked with creating a cybersecurity organizational profile workbook (mockup, not a formal study) — Jones’s group chose to analyze a local medical provider. Jones explains this project as “so helpful in understanding cyber across different industries, including healthcare. It was a comprehensive overview of what different organizations need to have proper cybersecurity,” Jones continued.“To have a professional like [Dunn] in the classroom and able to get her perspective on our work was very meaningful. I felt so much more confident in my ability to talk about cybersecurity, and now have something to show a future employer.”

Brieann Jones poses in front of a military vehicle and holds an award.
Brieann Jones brings military experience and expertise to Boise State and the Cyber Operations and Resilience program. Photo provided by Brieann Jones.

Finding Boise State Online’s Cyber Programs

Brieann Jones wasn’t sure about college at first. She moved from her Roundup, Montana hometown to Missouri for college but decided to drop out after one year to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. “This is where I became acquainted with IT and computers,” Jones explained. “Throughout my time in the Marines, I ran the help desk and assisted with writing and creating the architectural plans and paperwork for any type of military training my unit participated in.” While serving, she met her partner and relocated to Emmett, Idaho, to be with him. After settling down, she felt ready to jump back into school and pursue cyber.

“Boise State was willing to work with me on getting as many of my transfer credits accepted. I enrolled in the Bachelor of Applied Science program, which allowed me to get a CORe certificate. It all worked out perfectly,” Jones said.

Cyber for all

Looking ahead, Jones plans on graduating in fall 2021. She’s confident that her degree and knowledge will be relevant and applicable in the workplace. She recommends CORe for everyone. “No matter what field of study a person is in, they need to add one of the cyber certifications to their degree plan. Everything we use today is in some way related to technology and security. It is important to know how to protect yourself and your business.”

Brieann Jones sits on a bench in front of a large tree.
Brieann Jones believes that Boise State’s cyber programs have something to offer everyone. Photo provided by Brieann Jones.

Jones’s internship experience will undoubtedly prepare her well for life after graduation. “Last year, I interned at a local school district in their tech department. This summer, I have an internship with General Dynamics – a company I dream of working for in the future,” Jones exclaimed. “I’m still trying to figure out what area of cybersecurity I’m most interested in, but with more time and experience, I’m confident that I’ll be able to find my niche.”

Learn more about Cyber and CORe

The Boise State CORe program is poised to help future cyber warriors acquire the skills and know-how necessary to start their mission in the cyber operations field. Contact a student success coach to get started!

Contact a student success coach

Story by Pamela Craig, Boise State Extended Studies