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CU Boulder teams with engineering firm to offer course, capstone project on device cybersecurity – Boulder Daily Camera

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A new course and capstone project offered the University of Colorado Boulder, taught by an alumnus and industry professional, provides students with the opportunity to learn how cybersecurity can impact devices such as medical devices and the effects a potential breach can have on companies or device users.
Garrett Schumacher, a cybersecurity lead with engineering firm Velentium and adjunct instructor at CU Boulder, said his company trains engineers on ways they can securely design products with cybersecurity risks in mind. It also teaches them how to document their work to meet regulatory standards put in place by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in order to sell their products.
While working with engineers, Schumacher began thinking about others who could benefit from the training and decided to introduce the skill as a class and project for college students.
“There was nothing like (this course) at CU Boulder that kind of took a different spin (on cybersecurity),” he said. “There’s a few programs across the country and there’s some free online (courses), but there’s not much elsewhere,” he said.
Last August, he started the capstone project with graduate students in CU Boulder’s Technology, Cybersecurity and Policy program. The capstone project ran from August to May and asked students to apply artificial intelligence to cybersecurity to help speed up a device’s review process, which engineers complete by running tests to determine what the device’s flaws are and how they can be fixed before the device can be marketable.
Artificial intelligence “would really help with the documentation, and it would really help (engineers) learn more about how to really design their own systems, and it would also make our job a lot easier,” Schumacher said. “We don’t have to have an engineer spend 100 hours on something. We can have an engineer spend 20 hours or 10 hours on something.”
He also introduced a special topics course this past spring semester which was primarily offered to CU Boulder graduate students in the Technology, Cybersecurity and Policy program. The course focused on embedded cybersecurity and secure product development which taught students about the threat cybersecurity poses for medical devices.
Like other computer systems, devices like medical devices, share the same risk of security breaches, which can potentially impact hospital networks and the safety and effectiveness of the device.
Rushikesh Dodamani, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in cybersecurity at CU Boulder, completed both the capstone project and the course. He also recently finished an internship with Velentium, where he was able to apply what he learned in the class and capstone project to his everyday work.
For his capstone project, Dodamani and his team decided to hack smart light bulbs.
“It was interesting for me because we were tackling vulnerabilities that are present in almost every house, be it a smart camera, (smart) thermostat, light bulb, garage door — you name it — whatever makes it smart also makes it vulnerable,” he said. “I was impressed by Garrett on how he made the class interesting by discussing real-world problems and his enthusiasm and experience about cybersecurity.”
Bruce Montgomery, an associate teaching professor and faculty director for the Technology, Cybersecurity and Policy program at CU Boulder, said he is excited that Schumacher’s capstone project is being offered again this fall as well as the class which will be held for the second time this spring.
“Medical technology impacts all of us, and when you start thinking about potential attack surfaces — whether it’s on the device itself or the network — all those things potentially are places where patient information could be exposed,” he said.
Montgomery said having a class like Schumacher’s that focuses specifically on cybersecurity for devices is rare. He added it’s extremely valuable to have someone from the industry share their knowledge and their unique perspective with students.
“There’s really no substitute for that,” he said. “We have our regular classes that provide basic skills, but until you actually see some of those skills being applied, sometimes you really don’t appreciate what those things can mean and how they impact people’s daily lives.”
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