UMBC collaborates with MxD to develop cybersecurity curriculum for workers in manufacturing

Published: Jul 14, 2020

Portrait of a smiling middle-aged South Asian man wearing a white button up shirt. He sits in front of a desk with tech equipment.
Nilanjan Banerjee. Photo by Marlayna Demond '11 for UMBC. (Nilanjan Banerjee. Photo by Marlayna Demond '11 for UMBC.)

UMBC researchers will collaborate with the Chicago-based MxD to develop a curriculum and online platform for manufacturing professionals to increase their cybersecurity skills and to protect manufacturing plants from cyber breaches. The work is funded by a $650,000 grant from the Office of Economic Adjustment, under the U.S. Department of Defense. 

MxD is one of 14 federally-supported institutes known collectively as Manufacturing USA. It has awarded millions of dollars to research and development projects across 35 states to advance U.S. manufacturing practices and increase global competitiveness. This UMBC collaboration will be the first initiative focused on increasing manufacturing workers’ knowledge of cybersecurity.

The content of this program is completely new, as there are no existing platforms that focus on the intersection of cybersecurity and manufacturing, says Nilanjan Banerjee, principal investigator on the grant. 

Banerjee, professor of computer science and electrical engineering (CSEE) at UMBC, shares, “The program will accelerate training of practitioners in the manufacturing industry in cybersecurity. It will also expand UMBC’s impact on cybersecurity education in the manufacturing sector.”

Intersection of cyber and manufacturing

Banerjee will collaborate with a number of colleagues at UMBC to develop a curriculum tailored for people who already work in the manufacturing industry. Project co-PIs include Donna Ruginski, executive director of cybersecurity initiatives at UMBC, and Keith J Bowman, dean of UMBC’s College of Engineering and Information Technology. Alan Sherman, professor of CSEE; Linda Olivia, assistant professor of education; and Megean Garvin, director of research and assessment for the Maryland Center for Computing Education, will assess the curriculum developed to ensure it meets program goals.

Donna Ruginski. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.

Bowman helped establish the connections between UMBC and MxD, and is eager to watch the work develop. “This project fully leverages MxD, UMBC Training Centers, and UMBC assets in cybersecurity, manufacturing, and training,” says Bowman. “I have known MxD team members, including Federico Sciammarella, president and chief technology officer of MxD, ever since its origins, and I look forward to building on this collaboration.”

The first step of the multi-phased project will identify the skills most needed to protect manufacturing facilities from cyberattacks on their computer systems and machinery. UMBC and MxD will create a short-term training program for manufacturing professionals to develop these skills. 

“People will come out of this program with a certification that shows they have the tools to be successful in a cybersecurity role in manufacturing,” said Lizabeth Stuck, senior director of MxD Learn, the institute’s workforce development arm. “This has the dual benefit of upskilling workers who may be sidelined during the COVID-19 crisis and increasing the security of U.S. manufacturers from cyber-attacks.”

Addressing current needs

Banerjee explains that the recent COVID-19 pandemic has led to increased unemployment and a need for more opportunities for workers to quickly expand their skill sets. With this in mind, the program will be designed for workers to complete in less than a year and through a web-based format.

For maximum flexibility, the platform will offer both synchronous and asynchronous material. It will be launched and led by UMBC Training Centers, a not-for-profit owned by UMBC that offers professional and technical training in areas such as cybersecurity, project management, and leadership and innovation. The platform will likely launch in late January 2021. 

“This program will have a direct impact on the Defense Industrial Base Supply Chain,” says Ruginski. “It will create a robust workforce that has the cybersecurity skills required to assist companies in staying secure in the fast-paced cybersecurity manufacturing industry.”

Banner image: Nilanjan Banerjee. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.

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