Springfield’s Cybersecurity Center promises students “hands-on experience with real-world problems”

SPRINGFIELD — Recent headlines highlight the need for the newly named Richard E. Neal Cybersecurity Center of Excellence. These include how a payment system widely used in the healthcare sector was disrupted by a cyber attack, concerns about election integrity, and hackers targeting the elderly.

“Speaking of a growth industry,” Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, said Tuesday while touring the $5 million center being built at Union Station, the city’s rail hub. “Springfield Technical Community College is very well positioned on this very issue.”

Neil visited the Cyber ​​Security Center on Tuesday as STCC announced it would name the Cyber ​​Security Center after him. The facility is expected to open in June or July.

Neal reminded the audience that it’s not just reporting on medical billing cyberattacks or election threats.

“People have to trust the electoral system,” he says.

And people are concerned about the safety of their bank accounts.

“Don’t worry about large industrial plants,” Neal said.

Funded with $3 million in Congressional funds, $1.46 million from the state, and $500,000 in pandemic recovery funds from the city, the 6,000-square-foot facility will include students from Bay Path as well as Springfield Technical Community College. There will be offices and classrooms where students can gather. Universities, Elms College, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Western New England University, Springfield College, American International College.

Cyber ​​Range Manager Gene Kingsley said there are two classrooms with 24 students each. A cyber range, a group of interconnected computers, provides exercise in the same way that a shooting range provides firearms training and practice.

Approximately 400 students participate in various cybersecurity programs at Springfield-area colleges. This does not include Amherst College.

It will also have a security operations center where students will fight cyber threats on behalf of customers for a semester or summer job.

“Practical experience with real-world problems,” said Peter Sherlock, president and CEO of Cybertrust Massachusetts. “This experience puts students in a special category for employers.”

The state is building a similar facility at Bridgewater State University. It is already open in a temporary space.

Sherlock is already recruiting school districts and city governments as early customers.

Springfield Technical Community College President John B. Cook said the center is STCC’s first foray outside of the State Street campus.

Mr Neil said the center would increase footfall at the station. Neal spearheaded a decades-long effort to rebuild the once-abandoned Union Station with $103 million in state, local and federal funds.

The entire main concourse of Union Station is available for rent at CyberRange.

Armando Feliciano, chairman of the Springfield Redevelopment Authority, which owns the station, said he was particularly pleased with the comprehensive approach by STCC and others. The annual salary for a job in this industry ranges from $70,000 to $160,000.

“We need to make sure that people in our community, the Latinx community and women, have access to these jobs,” he said.

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