NPS’ Cyber Academic Group has just wrapped up the first delivery of its All Hands General Cyber Course, a pilot program charged with providing general cyber awareness for all Navy students at NPS, regardless of their program of study. Faculty across every school on campus collaborated on the course setup, with its pilot delivery receiving useful review from the first class of volunteer students.
“While there have been ups and downs during the general cyber course on what kind of content to cover, and in what order, the lectures have provided food for thought on many topics that range from cyber policy and ethics to case studies that illuminate just how much we don’t know about this domain,” explained Lt. Jeffrey Balistreri, a student working on his third quarter in the National Security Affairs department. “As students, we’ve been able to provide valuable feedback at each class meeting, and we’ve also had the chance to hear from a variety of professors who are subject matter experts in each field.”
Faculty developing the course recognized the challenge before them, with many NPS students having little technical experience in cyber security and operations. One of the overarching goals for the pilot program, therefore, was to provide general cyber awareness, to educate officers on how to practice their profession in the cyber age, creating a “cyber turn of mind” as NPS Defense Analysis Professor and Chair Dr. John Arquilla noted.
“In terms of focusing on cyber space as a domain that the Navy has to address strategically, this course has a lot of good content to inform those like myself who don’t have a background in cyber,” said Balistreri. “This course has exposed us to the basics of cyber functions, methods and vectors, those in which adversarial operators use to exploit our networks and systems.
“We don’t do enough conceptual thinking about this problem, and there’s not enough of that kind of thinking out there for how much we use it,” Balistreri continued, adding that all courses develop through some sort of experimentation, back and forth, both from the professor side and through the student side. “I think our feedback will help the course developers to make adjustments and improvements for the next cohort.”
NPS student Lt. Joseph Chua does have a background in intelligence, and comes with an appreciation of why it’s important to teach this kind of course.
“I definitely think the class has a lot of value added for those who are interested in bigger cyber policy issues in general. And while the topics in the course don’t provide any definitive answers, it’s the breadth of the field that has showed us just how complicated cyber can be … You don’t know, what you don’t know is a great metaphor for this domain,” said Chua.
“The whole course is about trying to figure out what cyber means for military and security affairs in the future,” added Arquilla. “One of the things we know today, we know that our armed forces are tremendously empowered by advanced information technologies. We also know that they are tremendously vulnerable to the disruption of these technologies. So ... How do we balance, how do we find an equilibrium that will allow us to employ these technologies ubiquitously to our advantage over our adversaries, without at the same time, opening up vulnerabilities that could have crippling affects on our own armed forces.”