A UA Little Rock student has earned his master’s degree after advancing cybersecurity education for hundreds of students and teachers throughout Arkansas.
Andrew Bomberger, of Hot Springs, will graduate with a master’s degree in computer science on Dec. 17. While he’s grown into one of the department’s leading students, Bomberger was originally on a very different career path before discovering his passion for cybersecurity.
“I used to live in Pennsylvania, and my uncles owned a dairy farm,” he said. “I grew up thinking that I would do that for a living. I got to help on the farm and figured out it was something I wasn’t interested in. Around 2016, I saw a conference talk on cybersecurity and social engineering and thought it was really fascinating. I would love to be on the side that helps people configure devices, monitor networks, and help protect people from the bad people trying to break into their networks.”
Bomberger joined UA Little Rock in 2017 after seeing the many awards the university’s Cybersecurity Club had won. He joined the Cyber Arena project, a cloud-based cybersecurity education initiative, in 2019. The Cyber Arena provides free cybersecurity education, training, and exercises to Arkansas students and teachers. So far, more than 2,000 students have benefited from the Cyber Arena nationwide.
“I’ve really enjoyed working on the Cyber Arena for the past four years,” he said. “When I started, I only knew bits and pieces about programming. This has been a great learning and networking experience, meeting a lot of professionals in the field. I’ve grown a lot as a person and a programmer from this project. I’ve enjoyed helping others learn more about cybersecurity, and I hope I’ve inspired other kids to go into the field.”
Although his professors have tried to get him to enroll in a doctorate program, Bomberger said he is finished with his education for now and has been interviewing for cybersecurity positions.
His graduate project has taken his work in the Cyber Arena to the next level. He is building a cloud-based emulated red team network to provide advanced cybersecurity training for teachers and students. In cybersecurity, red teams consist of hackers who evaluate system security by acting as adversaries to overcome cybersecurity controls. Companies often hire hackers to test their network protections.
“My project was focused on seeing if we could automate the attack process,” Bomberger said. “It was taking specific machines that have various attack scripts and injecting them into different controlled student networks. The idea behind all of it is that it would help emulate a more realistic environment for cybersecurity training. If we can place more weaknesses and attacks into the system, we can hopefully enhance learning as a long-term goal and make the experience more dynamic for students.”