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Cadets research cyber security through virtual partnership project

By Ashley D. Murphy, Strategic Communications

U.S. Air Force Academy – As part of a continuing summer research program project, two Systems Engineering cadets are partnering with a major non-profit organization by developing cyber security for projects in the development phase; and they’re doing it all virtually.

Cadet 1st Class Brynn Feighery and Cadet 1st Class Ryyan Reule have been partnering with other MITRE Corporation interns under a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) since May, providing Systems-Theoretic Process Analysis approach to identify and analyze potential security hazards. This allows the cadet team to better understand and elicit requirements necessary to create a security reference design that can be used to protect complex systems and software while in the development phase.

Due to COVID restrictions, the cadets’ interaction has been solely through virtual meetings. During the summer, cadets Feighery and Reule spent their weekdays working with the corporation via virtual meetings, and still continue to work asynchronously via email to wrap up the collaborative research paper, on top of their regular schoolwork.

“We ensure the security of a system as it moves through development all the way to operations,” explains Feighery. “This is important because companies invest so much money into developing these complex systems, but are not investing in ways to protect them while they are being developed. Therefore, secure software development is aimed at developing complex systems and software and protecting them with the appropriate security measures.”

The purpose of the cadets’ reference design was to produce a framework analysis to be built upon in the future and be used by others as a guide for specific projects. The outcome will derive meaningful requirements to follow when conducting specific implementation of the security operations process.

“We have gained a lot of operational experience outside the academic setting” said Reule. “We have also gained valuable experience by managing this partnership virtually during a pandemic.”

“During my time at the Academy, I have been fortunate enough to have numerous opportunities to work on a variety of teams and projects, and to work with a diverse range of people accomplish many different objectives,” Feighery added. “We were able to take those experiences and apply them to working with, and integrating into, a group of diverse education levels and expertise in order to generate the best possible product.”

The Air Force Academy currently has 142 Active CRADAs and 217 Active National and International Research Agreements. During the summer of 2020, 458 cadets participated in the Cadet Summer Research Program.

For more on cadet research initiatives, visit usafa.edu/research