Cybersecurity expert arms the next generation
UC alumnus brings cyber intelligence experience to the classroom
Coleman Kane, an adjunct instructor for the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Cincinnati, helps students build strong foundations to succeed in cyber defense, a field that strives to keep ahead of the growing number and sophistication of attacks that threaten our digital security.
A principal cyber intelligence analyst for GE Aviation, Kane hopes to empower the next generation of cybersecurity experts by bringing insight from his research and industry experience into the classroom.
“There's a lot of malware out there, a lot of cyber-attacks,” said Kane, who teaches courses on topics like malware analysis and security vulnerability assessment. “The more prominent the institution, like governmental agencies or high-tech companies, the more challenging the puzzles that are thrown at them.”
Our increasing use of mobile and smart devices has created a new problem space that we need to find creative solutions and try to get ahead of the attackers
Coleman Kane, Principal Cyber Intelligence Analyst, GE Aviation
Malware affects individuals as well as organizations, and the puzzles are no less challenging. The smart devices that we rely on every day are an increasingly popular target.
“Our increasing use of mobile and smart devices has created a new problem space that we need to find creative solutions and try to get ahead of the attackers,” Kane said.
A graduate student in the computer science and engineering PhD program at UC, Kane is researching ways to analyze malware that traditionally targets personal computers and apply those insights to identify malware on cell phones, smart TVs and more.
There's a lot of malware out there but there are not many authors. Malware authoring is a very specialized skill. Like most software developers, malware authors tend to reuse successful lines of code across projects.
“If we think that someone is authoring malware across these different platforms, we expect them to reuse source code between the two platforms,” Kane said.
Kane is investigating ways to search different devices and platforms for malware that might have been authored by the same person. Finding that recycled code could be a key to identifying malware more quickly on new platforms.
Cybersecurity is one of the fastest-growing career fields, but it is still a comparably new discipline, one where the set of “must-knows” changes rapidly. Methods and tools must be agile and proactive to identify, intervene, and prevent digital security breaches.
Kane and many fellow department faculty members openly share their course material online. Kane posts course content on GitHub.
Kane’s site is a learning tool for his students. It’s also a space to collaborate and problem-solve with the wider community.
"Cybersecurity is in a state of constant change — textbooks go out of date way too quickly to be useful," added John Franco, UC professor of computer science and Kane’s doctoral adviser. "Sites like GitHub have become of supreme importance to knowledge dissemination."
Kane, who earned a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from UC in 2005, became a malware analyst at GE Aviation in 2011, a time when very few companies staffed dedicated malware analysis roles. Much of his early work in that position was self-taught, building internal protocols from scratch that became the foundations of their cyber security team operations today.
"My role was to learn how to do malware analysis and then try to teach all the other analysts who may not have that as a dedicated job,” Kane said.
Based on Kane’s extensive experience, Franco, who had been Kane’s undergraduate faculty advisor, invited Kane to join a team of adjunct faculty from Northrop Grumman and GE Aviation to develop and teach courses related to the cyber operations graduate certificate program the department launched in partnership with the National Security Agency in 2015.
“I want to make sure that the next ‘me’ who's struggling right now to do this at their company can have more resources available to them today than I did 10 years ago when I tried to do this,” Kane said.
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Featured Image at Top: A keyboard and two monitors displaying code. Photo/Fotis Fotopoulos/Unsplash.
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