Online course bolsters cybersecurity in aviation

New course meets industry need for aerospace systems that are safe from cyberthreats

Cyber-Secure Aerospace | Aerogram Magazine | Purdue University School of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Online course bolsters cybersecurity in aviation

Now in its second year, the first aerospace cybersecurity course of its kind is giving AAE students valuable hands-on experience in cyber-domain security. By partnering with computer science and cybersecurity majors on a real-world problem, this interdisciplinary course teaches collaboration, teamwork, and perspective on the cybersecurity challenges unique to aerospace.

"In a traditional IT mindset, we think of assets on the network are at risk, and we'll put a devices in to add a layer of security to guard against intrusion, or a hack," says Joel Rasmus, managing director of the Purdue Center for Education Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS).

"In an airplane or other transportation system, you're governed by power, space, weight. The more space we take up, or weight we add, the more power we will need. The idea of adding another security device doesn't work. It takes away seats on a plane or adds weight."

This new Purdue Aviation and Space Cybersecurity program is not meant to turn aerospace engineers into cybersecurity professionals, or vice-versa — both groups of students are broadening their skill sets and lining themselves up to be better employees in the aerospace industry. They come out thinking about how to find solutions that are secure by design, rather than treating security as an afterthought or an add-on feature.

The program was made possible through the Data Mine's infrastructure. The idea was to get students from different disciplines working together on a specific industry problem and, while solving it, they would teach each other about their domain-specific constraints. That matched up with how the Data Mine runs their corporate partners program.

"It's been a home run. Boeing has offered internships and jobs to many of the students involved because they're so far ahead of their peers," Rasmus says. "Immediately we had other commercial and government industry asking for something like it."

For year two, Rasmus is adding more guest speakers working at the intersection of aerospace and cybersecurity. Other companies, including several U.S. Department of Energy national labs, Rolls-Royce and Raytheon, are interested in teaming CS and cybersecurity students with domains like nuclear or mechanical engineering to address the growing cyber risk to physical systems.

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