Cyber security ‘bootcamp’ coming to City Colleges

Wilbur Wright College, 4300 N Narragansett Ave., announced plans to offer a cyber security training program for students. 

By Jackie Murray

Cyber security is an essential tool internet users need to ensure their safety, according to local experts, and now Chicagoans will be able to study it at a local community college.

The first cyber security program partnership between a community college and a federal agency, the U.S. Department of Defense, will be offered to students at the City Colleges of Chicago, according to a Jan. 18 press release from Mayor Rahm Emanuel. 

The six-month “bootcamp” program beginning in late spring will take place at Wilbur Wright College, 4300 N. Narragansett Ave., which is already considered CCC’s best school for information technology, according to the press release. 

The industry calls for approximately 200,000 new jobs per year with 10,000 needed in Chicago, the press release states, making it a field in high demand for trained, skilled workers. 

“Cyber security is one of the most important fields right now, and it will be more [important] in the future,” said Graciela Perera, associate professor of computer science at Northeastern Illinois University, whose research interests are in infrastructure safety.

Other local experts confirmed the need for this type of education, including Chris Kanich, a professor of computer science at University of Illinois at Chicago.

“As data becomes more important and use of the internet more necessary for almost every single thing we do, being able to secure that communication, data and storage is insanely important,” Kanich said.

Kanich said improving cyber security is important for companies and necessary for personal use—protecting users from getting locked out of an account, having files held for ransom or bank account information stolen. 

“These are real problems that affect both companies and individuals, and it’s important to make that initial investment so you can protect yourself,” he said. 

A world without cyber security would look a lot like the “wild west” in which anybody who decided they wanted to take over could do so, according to Kanich. 

“We have a lot of good ways to protect ourselves,” Kanich said. “But that does not mean there are not millions of people that have their own goals that are doing whatever it is they can to attack the system.”

Accountant and prospective cyber security bootcamp student Marquita Riggins said she is  interested in the program, especially to potentially learn how combat black market hackers. 

“It would be more affordable [than other programs], and more people would be interested in it,” Riggins said. 

After completing the course, Chicago businesses specializing in information technology—such as Accenture, Allstate, Aon, ComEd, Keeper Security and Microsoft—have already agreed to provide further assistance, including  internship opportunities, ongoing mentoring, recruitment and job placement, stated the press release. 

“One of the great things we can do is train not only people to be in the cyber security field but also people who are outside of the field on how they can be better users or better protect themselves,” Perera said.