Cyber Center

Cyber Center

About the Program

Houston Community College’s Cyber Security program is nationally recognized by the National Security Agency (NSA) as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.

AWARD TYPES: Associate of Applied Science, Certificate Level 1, Certificate Level 2

AREA OF STUDY: Science, Technology, Engineering & Math

Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense

 

Houston Community College’s Cyber Security program is nationally recognized by the National Security Agency (NSA) as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.

About Centers of Academic Excellence

The National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (NCAE-C) program is managed by NSA's National Cryptologic School. Federal partners include the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)/National Initiative on Cybersecurity Education (NICE), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Defense Office of the Chief Information Officer (DoD-CIO), and U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM).

NCAE-C program aims to create and manage a collaborative cybersecurity educational program with community colleges, colleges, and universities that:

  • Establishes standards for cybersecurity curriculum and academic excellence,
  • Includes competency development among students and faculty,
  • Values community outreach and leadership in professional development,
  • Integrates cybersecurity practice within the institution across academic disciplines,
  • Actively engages in solutions to challenges facing cybersecurity education.

 

Academic institutions may choose from three designations. The designation process is a combination of elements related to the institution focused on outputs for determining academic achievement. This combination assures that the institution meets the desired characteristics of a CAE institution, and that the academic delivery to students is producing the qualified workforce needed by the nation.

CAE-designated institutions must complete validation of a Program of Study, which is a series of courses and experiences that a student can reasonably accomplish in the course of attaining a degree or completing a certificate.

More information: https://www.nsa.gov/Academics/Centers-of-Academic-Excellence/

Degrees and Certificates

Learn more about the Degrees and Certificates offered by this program by visiting the HCC Catalog.

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General information about Cybersecurity

 

What is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is a broad term used to describe the protection of people, data, and processes as it relates to all industries that make sure of IT systems (hardware, software, and data). The shortage for cybersecurity workers is a global critical issue that is causing issues such as the loss of lives, monetary burdens, career implications, political problems, and infrastructure outages.

 

What would students learn in HCC’s programs?

Students will start with a solid core foundation in the areas of Operating Systems (such as Linux, Windows), Networking Fundamentals, Security Fundamentals, Computer Virtualization, and Programming/Scripting with a heavy emphasis on Server Administration & Hardening, Network Security & Analysis, Computer Forensics, and Ethical Hacking. Students would learn valuable knowledge from its seasoned professors and through interactions with classmates.

As a workforce program, every technical course offered under the Cybersecurity program aligns either directly or very closely with high demand industry certifications from our academic partners including CompTIA, Microsoft, Red Hat, VMware, and Cisco.

 

Cyber Security and Job outlook

Cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing areas in the Information Technology (IT) sector. According to the latest data from cyberseek.org (last updated on June 7, 2022), the cyber job postings are growing at more than twice the rate of today’s overheated job market. U.S. employers deployed 714,548 job postings for cybersecurity job roles and skills during the 12-month period running through April 2022. Almost 40% of those job postings were listed during the first four months of 2022, indicating that demand is speeding up as more public and private sector organizations look to strengthen defenses against a multitude of threats. Demand for cybersecurity jobs increased by 43% in the 12-month period compared to a nearly 18% increase in demand across the entire employment market (PRNewsWire - https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/cybersecurity-hiring-momentum-ramps-up-new-data-from-cyberseek-reveals-301562909.html).

The total employed cybersecurity workforce in the US is at a staggering 1,091,575 (https://www.cyberseek.org/heatmap.html). Texas has an employed cybersecurity workforce of 104,791 and has 83,126 total cyber security job openings. The Houston-Woodlands-Sugar Land area has 15,946 employed and 9,297 openings.

Over an eight-year period tracked by Cybersecurity Ventures, the number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs grew by 350 percent, from one million positions in 2013 to 3.5 million in 2021. For the first time in a decade, the cybersecurity skills gap is leveling off. Looking five years ahead, Cybersecurity Ventures predicts the same number of openings in 2025 (Cybersecurity Ventures https://cybersecurityventures.com/jobs/).

HCC is helping the nation fill that gap and is contributing to the protection of the National Information Infrastructure.

 

What are some of the job roles a cybersecurity professional could fill?

Entry-Level: Cybersecurity Specialist / Technician, Cyber Crime Analyst / Investigator, Incident Analyst / Responder, IT Auditor.

Mid-Level: Cybersecurity Analyst, Cybersecurity Consultant, Penetration & Vulnerability Tester.

Advanced-Level: Cybersecurity Manager / Administrator, Cybersecurity Engineer, Cybersecurity Architect.

Cybersecurity graduates from HCC are well trained to land a job in Entry-Level and Mid-Level jobs as well as general Help Desk and Computer Support Specialist entry-level jobs (the range for those are $40-60K at the moment).

A more detailed list of job roles, pathways, and skills needed can be found on cyberseek.org/pathways.html

Additional information can be found under HCC’s EMSI powered page: https://hccs.emsicc.com/?radius=&region=Houston-The%20Woodlands-Sugar%20Land%2C%20TX

According to that website (6/15/2022), the median salary for Information Security Analysts in the Houston-Woodlands-Sugar Land area, is $114,358. Penetration Testers have a median salary of $79,418. Computer User Support Specialists have a median salary of $48,996.

 

Programs and Certifications pathways

Students start with a solid foundation in the areas of Operating Systems (such as Linux, Windows) and Hardware, Networking Fundamentals, Security Fundamentals, Computer Virtualization, and Programming/Scripting. Students then move on to other areas including server hardening, network analysis, firewalls, computer forensics, special topics such as Industrial Control Systems security and Ethical Hacking, and a Cybersecurity Challenge capstone course.

An HCC student can choose to start with three credit (traditional academic programs) programs:

Level 1 Certificate (16 credits). The Level 1 Certificate can stack into the Level 2 Certificate. Students can start with a Level 1 Certificate 1 and jump directly into technical courses without taking ENGL 1301 Composition 1, MATH 1313 College Algebra, and other electives.

Level 2 Certificate (37 credits). The Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates can stack into the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) two-year degree. Students pursuing the Certificate Level 2 would only need to be TSI ready.

Associate of Applied Science (AAS) (60 credits). This degree is under the Computer Systems Networking program and is a specialization. Students can only have one specialization and as many other certificates as they choose (the other specializations include Linux, Microsoft, and Cisco).

IT Networking Technology (224 hours) – Continuing Education. This program covers material from CompTIA A+, Network+, and Security+ and is recommended for anyone that is either new (if digitally illiterate, you would want to take IT Fundamentals+ prior to this training) or looking for a refresher.

Advanced Cyber Security (192 hours) – Continuing Education. This program covers material from the CompTIA Security+, Cyber Security Analyst (CySA+), and Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) certifications.

DIT Cyber Security Career Pathway for CE, Cert 1, Cert 2 and AAS

For additional information, reach out to Fidelis Ngang (Chair) fidelis.ngang@hccs.edu for academic/credit courses and Muhammad Lone muhammad.lone@hccs.edu  (Continuing Education Program Specialist) for Continuing Education training. Dean Samir Saber can also be contacted samir.saber@hccs.edu.

Register for the next info session: https://hcc.idloom.events/dit-info-session/register

 

Opportunities for HCC students

Students learn valuable knowledge from its season professors and through interactions with classmates. They also work as teams as they compete in cyber competitions through its clubs (Cyber Security, Computer Science Association, and Women in Technology).

Students also get access to state of the art labs and equipment. The West Loop Security Operations Center lab features a miniature water plant, Industrial Control Systems trainers, a car-hacking workbench, and a Capture the Flag range.

As a workforce program, every technical course offered under the Cybersecurity program aligns either directly or very closely with high demand industry certifications from our academic partners including CompTIA, Microsoft, Red Hat, VMware, and Cisco.

For additional information, reach out to Fidelis Ngang (Chair) fidelis.ngang@hccs.edu or Samir Saber (Dean). Register for the next info session: https://hcc.idloom.events/dit-info-session/register

 

Internal News and Achievements

As of Spring 2022, HCC ranked #1 among community colleges nationally during the National Cyber League competitions. HCC has (at times) outperformed all schools in Texas including 4-year universities during this competition. 

The following timeline shows its progression:

  • Fall 2018 – did not make the Top 100
  • Spring 2019 – Ranked #91 overall, #100 team rank, #88 individual rank, #76 participation rank
  • Fall 2019 – Ranked #60 overall, #69 team rank, #58 individual rank, #32 participation rank
  • Spring 2020 – Ranked #21 overall, #21 team rank, #32 individual rank, #9 participation rank
  • Fall 2020 – Ranked #40 overall, #46 team rank, #103 individual rank, #9 participation rank
  • Spring 2021 – Ranked #14 overall, #20 team rank, #24 individual rank, #6 participation rank
  • Fall 2021 – Ranked #31 overall, #31 team rank, #49 individual rank, #11 participation rank
  • Spring 2022 – Ranked #27 overall, #39 team rank, #32 individual ran, #7 participation rank

 

HCC ranked #2 in Texas and #36 nationally during the SANS 2019 Cyber FastTrack competition. HCC reached the Top Tier (top 3%) of US colleges in identifying students with a natural aptitude to excel in cybersecurity.

It was announced on April 24, 2019, that HCC had reached the Top Tier (the top 3%) of US colleges in identifying students with a natural aptitude to excel in Cybersecurity after the 2019 Cyber Fast Track competition. HCC’s efforts play a pivotal role in the national initiative launched by Governor Abbott and 24 other governors to close the elite cyber skills gap with China and Russia. 

After 17 days of Cyber FastTrack competition, Houston Community College was ranked Number 5 in Texas and Number 29 in the nation, out of 5,200 US colleges, in the number of students discovering their aptitude for cybersecurity careers. HCC ranked #2 in Texas and #36 in the nation during the quarterfinals with 70 total students attempting the Cyber Fast track competition and 12 placing into the quarterfinals. HCC had two students in the finals out of 500 total participants in the nation.

According to Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, "The leadership shown by Houston Community College is commendable. Without the talent being discovered in Cyber FastTrack, shortages of elite talent will put the United States at a severe disadvantage in protecting power systems, financial systems and military systems in times of conflict, and protecting businesses and personal privacy in peace time.  Houston Community College has set a high bar for other schools in Texas and in the nation." SANS Institute partnered with the 25 state governors to launch Cyber FastTrack.

Cyber Security student and Cyber Fast Track 2019 finalist Jason Quick received a $1000 scholarship during the Houston Cyber Summit on Feb 27, 2019.

HCC partnered with Milby HS (P-TECH from HISD) for their Cyber Security program (Level 1 Cyber Security certificate but not until 2024). This happened on Nov 21, 2021.

HCC is planning to offer either a Level 1 Cyber Security (only) or a Level 1 & 2 Cyber Security at Willowridge High School. This is in partnership with Adult Learning Education to pilot students mixed with their parents (also as students) for $20.

Grant funding

HCC received a National Science Foundation grant as a subrecipient in partnership with Texas A&M. The CyberCorps Scholarship for Service Texas A&M $4.4 million grant award titled; “Developing Cyber Leader and Scholars for our Nation”. Texas A&M University and HCC provided scholarships to outstanding students studying in the field of Cybersecurity. Scholarship For Service (SFS) is a unique program designed to recruit and train the next generation of information technology professionals, industrial control system security professionals, and security managers to meet the needs of “the cybersecurity mission for Federal, State, local, and tribal governments”. This program provides scholarships for up to 3 years of support for cybersecurity undergraduate and graduate education. The scholarships are funded through grants awarded by the National Science Foundation. In return for their scholarships, recipients must agree to work after graduation for the U.S. Government, in a position related to cybersecurity, for a period equal to the length of the scholarship. Scholarship benefits include: Coverage of tuition and fees, annual stipends ($22,500 undergraduate and $34,000 graduate), annual book allowance, health insurance reimbursement, and professional development allowance required for travel and training. 

HCC was able to receive a $100,500 miniature water plant (ICS Range lab) with a partnership with GRIMM (ICS Village at the time). The funding came from the Carl D. Perkins grant. The lab uses relevant industrial-grade components and also comes with pre-built labs. This is a lab that was featured at DefCon and HouSecCon. This lab is mobile and can be transported to other campuses, including HCC’s Northeast community which houses the Global Energy Center of Excellence and many industrial companies in the region. 

HCC was also able to receive a $125,000 Car-Hacking workbench through HCC's Workforce funding which will arrive at HCC’s upcoming Security Operations Center lab in June 2022.

HCC was awarded a $650,000 Texas Reskilling and Upskilling through Education (TRUE) Institutional Capacity Grant funded by Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund in Fall 2021. This is through a consortium led by Texas Southmost College and partnered with San Jacinto College and Houston Community College (Total of $1,813,241). The funding is helping the Digital & Information Technology Center of Excellence complete its Security Operations Center lab at its West Loop campus. The new lab will feature 10 additional small ICS trainers, 2 medium ICS trainers (both table-top), new desks/chairs, TVs, laptops, laptop carts, a Capture the Flag range with 50 existing labs for IoT/ICS and 50 that will be customized based on HCC’s existing infrastructure. The funding will also cover the networking infrastructure to help connect the SOC to 6 other labs at the West Loop location in order to host CTFs and other activities. 

HCC is building a new Resiliency and Response Center of Excellence and the work that the Digital & Information Technology Center of Excellence has been able to accomplish thus far will fit perfectly with the project.

HCC also received $149,000 of firewall devices from NetworkBox USA to be utilized in the SOC.

HCC’s DIT COE is directly involved with multiple organizations in this space including InfraGard (public/private partnership with the FBI), ISACA, CompTIA (academy),Cisco (academy), Nutanix, Microsoft (academy), Red Hat (academy), Amazon (academy), VMware(academy), Convergence College Network (CCN), CyberWatch West, GRIMM, ThreatGEN, LetsDefend, and others. 

HCC has also been awarded close to $200,000 on a Texas Workforce Commission Apprenticeship grant that will help place 50 apprentices through an apprenticeship program where they will receive $2000 in tuition/books/labs for training to upskills or reskill new graduates or existing employees. HCC is targeting to place 10-20 students as entry level Security Analysts by 2023. 

HCC submitted two grant proposals for the AACC Good Jobs Challenge. One is worth 3 million over 3 years for Cyber Security (mostly staff and operations in order to fully utilize the new Security Operations Center lab) and another one worth $800,000 for one year for Cyber Security and Drones.

HCC received hundreds of thousands of funding through the Carl D. Perkins grant to help its infrastructure for Cyber Security and toolkits for students.

 

HCC cybersecurity students’ demographics

The 2021 academic year had the following statistics for HCC’s Cyber Security AAS, Level 1 & Level 2 certificates and not including Continuing Education programs:

Number of students by age groups

  • 20 under 20
  • 197 20-29
  • 162 30-39
  • 93 40 and above

 

Number of students by race

  • 156 Black/African American, 33.1%
  • 113 Hispanic or Latino, 23.9%
  • 77 White, 16.3%
  • 41 Asian, 8.7%
  • 17 Two or more races, 3.6%
  • 8 Race and ethnicity unknown, 1.7%
  • 1 Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, 0.2%

 

Full-Time and Part-time status

  • First Generation, Full-Time 19, 20.2%
  • Part-time, 57, 60.6%
  • Mixed, 18, 19.1%

 

Funding opportunities

Microsoft’s Cybersecurity Scholarship Program - HCC students have been receiving assistance through Microsoft’s Cybersecurity Scholarship Program — Last Mile Education Fund (lastmile-ed.org). The program supports community college degree and industry certificate completion through financial assistance (up to $500) and subsidies for cybersecurity certification exam costs (up to $375). Financial assistance is intended to cover short-term basic needs, such as food, rent, health-related, transportation/car issues, and/or a laptop/device. This one is for students that qualify as low income and are on a cybersecurity pathway. There are no GPA requirements, and the funds are typically sent to students within a few business days (via PayPal).

Students also get a free LinkedIn Premium account, access to Github Education benefits (including the Student Developer Pack and access to local GitHub sponsored events)!

Full details here: https://www.lastmile-ed.org/microsoftcybersecurityscholarship

Career4U Academy – you may qualify for $20 for a Level 1 Cyber Security certificate!

https://www.hccs.edu/programs/adult-education/career4u-academy/informational-technology-academy/

 

IT Apprenticeship grant - 50 students will receive $2000 for education and will get placed with an employer. The grant started 9/1 and will go on for three years. Workforce Solutions also has the same grant and can help up to 50 additional students from HCC. Contact: Juliette Manning (juliette.manning@hccs.edu, 713-718-5942).

Workforce Solutions – Workforce Solutions provides funding for our Cyber Security students (for all programs including the two-year degree, Level 1 & 2 Certificates, IT Networking Technology (Continuing Education), and Advanced Cyber Security (Continuing Education).

Texas Public Education Grant (TPEG) – will fund many Continuing Education programs.

VRRAP – Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program part of HCC’s Veteran & Military Affiliated Student Affairs (VMAS). They have assistance for veterans.

PepsiCo Foundation – Uplift Scholarship Program. For Black & Hispanic Students (2.5+ GPA) – they cover all Cyber Security programs.

Texas Reskilling Grant Texas Reskilling Grant. ANY student who has “Stopped-Out” from DIT is eligible to apply for this Texas ReSkilling Grant to re-start their program back in 2nd Summer Start or for Fall 2022 – All tuition and fees paid--. Any students that has stopped attending in the past two years (SCH or CEU) are eligible to apply for this grant. This is a unique opportunity, since the grant funds will need to be spent by then end of Sept. 2022.

 

Resources

Search for a Cyber Center Professor or request more information

Get in touch

Cyber Center

Fidelis Ngang (Chair, Cyber Security)
fidelis.ngang@hccs.edu
713.718.5552

Muhammad Lone (Program Specialist, Continuing Education)
muhammad.lone@hccs.edu
713.718.2728

Samir Saber (Dean)
samir.saber@hccs.edu

Elena Olvera (Admin Assistant)
elena.olvera@hccs.edu
713.718.6778