Ferris’ information and security intelligence program received a $130,000 grant from the National Security Agency.
The grant is being used to develop a social media and dark web analysis curriculum, as well as necessary software and training to teach the courses.
“It started with President Obama. If you look at what they call the top threats to the United States, one of those is cyber. If it is considered one of the top threats to the United States, it’s certainly worth looking at,” Ferris Center of Cyber Security Director Greg Gogolin said. “Some of the things that are out there, they’re almost indescribable. It’s not only the impact of how you get there and so forth, there’s an impact just seeing it. You can’t unsee it.”
The deep web is a large part of the internet, inaccessible through any search engine. This means to access a site, you need a direct link. Within the deep web lies the dark web. The dark web is a blanket term for the websites used for illegal activity.
Ferris information and security intelligence senior Lilia Herdegen said that no student from the program has gone on to the dark web due to how dangerous it really is.
“From what I’ve been told about it, there’s a lot of human traffickers that go on there, terrorists, that kind of thing. That’s how a lot of black market stuff goes on, on the dark web. But it’s hard to catch people on the dark web because they’re pretty high tech, and they’re able to delete information,” Herdegen said. “That’s what makes it really hard to get people in trouble, especially because it’s global. If something happens to someone in the U.S., but the exchange happens out of the country, they might not be able to get in trouble because the rules are different there.”
The program received a second grant from the National Security Agency in the amount of $160,000. This grant was mainly used to further develop and promote cyber competitions at Ferris.
Gogolin said the dark web and social media analysis courses will stay as electives for now, with the potential to develop into a concentration.
“The tools that you use to investigate dark web activities can be extremely expensive. Being able to sustain those tools and capabilities over time can be a challenge,” Gogolin said. “You can spend $100,000 to develop something that is very much needed, bring in the software and such and set up the environment, and then the next year you can’t run it because you don’t have the funding.”
Ferris information and security intelligence senior Bryan Bollou said students at Ferris can take a few precautions to protect themselves online.
“The most important aspect to defend is your passwords. Having multiple, complex passwords is one of the greatest ways to prevent cyber attacks against your accounts,” Bollou said. “I highly advise students to use a password manager such as LastPass on their computers and phones. A multifactor application such as DUO would be a great accessory to a password manager, too. Though it may seem like a drag, most managers are very intuitive and effective.”