Facebook reps talk cybersecurity at MSU

Facebook security engineer Carmen Tang, left, and information security Program Manager Stephanie Siteman answer questions at a program Thursday at MSU. The university now offers a cybersecurity course designed with input from Facebook and the tech nonprofit CodePath.org. (Photo by Charlie Benton, SDN)
Staff Writer

Students at Mississippi State University had the chance to gain some information on cybersecurity Thursday with the help of a major technological company.

Representatives from Facebook presented on campus, discussing the company’s cybersecurity measures and the general importance of cybersecurity. The presenters also took questions from the audience about cybersecurity and working for a large technology company.

MSU associate professor of computer science and engineering Byron Williams said the exchange was tied to a new class, which Facebook and tech nonprofit CodePath.org had a hand in creating.

“The class is the software security engineering class,” Williams said. “It was developed with CodePath as well as Facebook, and this class provides the students with hands on experience to what it means to be both a hacker, to be able to exploit certain vulnerabilities, but then also to work defensively against those same vulnerabilities.”

The program was introduced at MSU in the fall 2017 semester.

Williams also said the class would add to the already extensive cybersecurity programs at MSU, which include a master’s degree launched last year and the preparations for a bachelor’s degree to be launched.

“Of course, companies like Facebook are interested in engineers that are trained in software and applications that are secure, and this is not just an interest for Facebook, but this is an interest nationwide,” Williams said.

He cited several large hacks in recent years including Equifax.com and Uber as reasons why cybersecurity is important.

“Whatever company it is, there’s lots of personal information and personal harm done to individual users because of these hacks,” Williams said. “Hopefully, we can use this material to basically protect our citizens from these malicious attacks."

Senior computer engineering major Christian Bush said he was glad to see a company as large and influential as Facebook visiting the MSU campus.

“I know there’s a lot of talent here among my peers, and quite a few people I know actually are starting to trickle down to big four companies and to bigger cities like San Francisco,” Bush said.

The Facebook representatives also promoted diversity in the tech sector while at MSU.

“Our industry needs to be reflective of the people we aim to protect,” said Information Security Program Manager Stephanie Siteman.

Williams said the practical experience gained through the class would go a long way for students. He said the name attachment would also attract students to the program and encourage them to take the cybersecurity route.

“This gives us a company that supports our efforts and supports our students going through the program, and it basically elevates it to the next level,” Williams said.