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What Does a Soldier-Artist Have in Common with Cyber Security Education?

By Angela Shugarts • Posted about 1 year ago

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Cybersecurity is the practice of defending all online aspects of daily life. Areas like work, school, government, healthcare, shopping, entertainment, and more — all rely on technology. To those who work to defend the digital parts of our daily lives, you must be prepared to always learn and improve; and we believe it starts with the right perspective.

"You can only fight the way you practice." – Miyamoto Musashi, famous Japanese soldier-artist
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Our inspiration comes from the legendary Miyamoto Musashi (opens new window) who was a famous Japanese soldier-artist. He built an amazing career starting at the age of 13! His philosophy was that to become the best, you must practice like you fight. As a result, he redefined what it meant to be a soldier for an entire country.

Interesting. Sure. But you might be wondering,

“How the heck does this relate to cyber security?”

Miyamoto, understood that being a great soldier was not something he could obtain by watching others. He had to grab his weapon, get into the ring, and work. Sometimes he got bruised and beaten. But, he was on a journey to get better and better.

Like being a soldier preparing for battle, a cyber security professional is a warrior in the fight against cyber security attacks and breaches. Being a cyber security warrior is a hands-on profession that cannot be learned by watching someone else. You must get into the ring and practice just like a soldier preparing for battle!

Think of Project Ares as the practice field and its learning exercises are your weapons (opens new window). With a click of a link, you have a simulated secure cyber range that allows you to fine-tune your combat skills in a realistic environment.

We are working with cyber security educators who understand Miyamoto’s and Project Ares’ philosophy.

Example: Practical cyber Experience in Higher Education

The School of Technology at Capella University (opens new window) has been using Project Ares as the lab environment for the capstone course in its Information Technology, Information Assurance and Cybersecurity B.S. program. Capella University serves adult learners who consistently state that they want courses to teach them skills that they can apply to their “real-world” jobs. Meeting this goal was a prime reason for incorporating Project Ares. Capella uses the cyber labs (opens new window) in two ways. Ungraded assignments are set up with the automated assistant and learning hints enabled to assist students, guiding them through exercises as many times as they need to successfully learn the skills. Then a student must complete the exercise at least once without the help features to receive a grade. After working at their own pace, students are grouped together to tackle a complex learning scenario, collaborating in the way that ‘real world’ cyber teams often do. Through these interactions on the Project Ares cyber range, Capella students gain practical experience (opens new window).

After teaching over 70 students using Project Ares experiential labs, Dr. James Barker, the course instructor said, “Short of some form of internship as a cybersecurity engineer at an employer location – which is not a viable option for most adult learners – I cannot envision a better means of exposing learners to ‘real world’ security work.”

Example: Practical Cyber Application for Industry Certification

Recently, Project Ares and its partner Michael Kaplan, Director and Cyber Security Instructor at Phase2Advange (opens new window) collaborated with Inteligenca (opens new window) on their 100 Women in 100 Days Cybersecurity Career Accelerator program. As part of the program, Mr. Kaplan taught a 12-week prep course for the ComptTIA Security+ certification (opens new window). To put lecture concepts into practice, students used the Project Ares labs specifically for Data Forensics and System Security Analyst skills. Course evaluation survey results showed that

  • 100% of the respondents would use Project Ares again to learn other cyber skills
  • 100% of the respondents reported Project Ares made learning more engaging
  • 99% of the respondents found benefit using Project Ares labs as training tools for future internships and jobs

Example: Practical Cyber Training on the Job

At Project Ares, we look for innovative ways to expand on the realism within Project Ares. In partnership with the Microsoft Digital Security and Risk Engineering (DSRE) organization, we’ve been exploring hands-on training activities specifically with the M365 Security toolset. DSRE is the global team responsible for keeping all Microsoft data secure and ensuring compliance with evolving regulations. With them, we created a technical, hands-on training program, called Into the Breach, using the Project Ares cyber range.

To date over 700 Microsoft Technical (opens new window) IT staff have participated in the Into the Breach team building, continuing education events. To solve challenges related to ransomware and insider threat attacks, they have explored all aspects of their own security technology including Azure (opens new window) Sentinel, Defender for Office 365, Defender for Endpoint, Defender for Identity, 365 Defender Dashboard, and MCAS. Event evaluation survey results showed that 96% of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with the Project Ares-based event. And most respondents would recommend the activity to a colleague. Every day the DSRE team worked to defend their enterprise and Into the Breach was a great example of practicing the way that they fight.

True-to-Life Teaching and Training for Work Readiness

Whether an instructor uses Project Ares open-source labs (opens new window) with IT degree students or certification seeking professionals OR an enterprise uses Project Ares labs to keep their team sharp, it all comes back to the same premise: the more true-to-life the learning experience is, the more value and impact to ‘real life’ work.

At Project Ares we encourage putting practice and application to your all passions! If you are a cyber security instructor by day, then check out Project Ares (opens new window) to enrich your teaching or training programs. And whatever you aspire to after-hours – crafting the perfect meal for dinner with friends, upping your batting average for your softball team, improving your math skills to tutor your kids – may you find the tools and the proper environment/setting to make learning and practice fun.

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