Cybersecurity Club breaking new ground at UDM

The University of Detroit Mercy’s Cybersecurity Club is quickly making an impact on campus. 

The Cybersecurity Club invites individuals to engage in discussion with guest speakers, navigate demonstrations using cybersecurity tools and participate in events such as the ISACA Cybersecurity Scholarship Case Competition – all while enjoying a warm slice of pizza provided by faculty. Students from all majors are welcome to join.  

In addition to competition dates, the club will officially meet once a month this semester.  

Previous guest speakers hosted by the Cybersecurity Club include security experts from Quicken Loans and Microsoft. This semester, the club has scheduled a local FBI agent to speak with students.  

Gregory Laidlaw, department chair and lecturer in the Department of Cybersecurity & Information Systems, defined Cybersecurity Club as a facilitator for interaction between students and potential employers.  

“We have some very talented students with a lot of knowledge,” Laidlaw said. “What we are trying to do with Cybersecurity Club is introduce employers to students and students to employers.”  

Ali Laho, vice president of the Cybersecurity Club and senior double-major in cybersecurity and health services administration at the University of Detroit Mercy, joined the club in the Fall of 2022.  

Laho described learning from guest speakers as his favorite part of the club.  

“My favorite part about the club is that we bring in industry professionals to present occupational topics throughout the field,” Laho said. “It’s a great way for students to learn more about potential career paths that they could explore.  

Laho’s goal as vice president is to help club members gain a better insight of cybersecurity.  

“We do that by trying to make sure we find presenters that align with their goals,” Laho said. “We want our club to be a great tool for students to utilize when it comes to learning more about cybersecurity and finding out where they might belong in the field.”  

In addition to guest speakers, the Cybersecurity Club has organized various activities including demonstrations of wireless attacks, setting up Raspberry Pi Picos, tutorials on how to build a desktop, as well as a cybersecurity escape room – an event from Oct. 2023, that Laho is planning to do again in the future.  

“The best memory so far from the Cybersecurity Club would have to be the cybersecurity escape room,” Laho said. “My fellow club officers and I planned to make an engaging activity that involved all members, regardless of what major they were.”  

The escape room involved using cybersecurity tools to escape while using various clues that were decoded through binary code and a Caesar cypher. Teams that solved the clues in 10 minutes or less could choose from a selection of prizes.  

“Overall, this was one of our most successful events,” Laho said. “My fellow club officers and I will definitely plan for another cybersecurity escape room in the near future.”  

The Cybersecurity Club has also encouraged students to participate in cybersecurity competitions. In 2023, students from the University of Detroit Mercy were awarded $13,500 in scholarships after winning first, second and third place in the 9th Annual Detroit Chapter ISACA Cybersecurity Scholarship Case Competition. 

This semester, the Cybersecurity Club plans to compete in the ISACA Cybersecurity Case Competition once again. The event will be held on the weekend of March 8 

Laidlaw clarified that students from all majors are invited to join the Cybersecurity Club and participate in cybersecurity competitions. A background in technology is not required.  

“They (the competitions) seem kind of tech heavy when you read them,” Laidlaw said. “But you have to remember that cybersecurity ends up being part tech, but also part reason, part process, part risk, part measurement, and part cost.”  

Whether students are interested in listening to guest speakers or solving puzzles within a cybersecurity escape room, everyone is welcome to stop by a Club meeting.  

“It’s not targeted specifically to our students, or even computer science,” Laidlaw said. “We want to see students from business, healthcare, and any other majors. Anybody that wants to come, even if you only want to come and eat pizza, come check it out!”  

As technology expands in our contemporary world, cybersecurity has become something that everyone should familiarize themselves with.  

Anne Kohnke, an associate professor of cybersecurity and information systems and director of the Detroit Mercy Center of Cybersecurity and Intelligence Studies, explained that cybersecurity can be examined from various angles.  

“Cybersecurity is kind of an umbrella topic, and there is so much to it,” Kohnke said. “Cyber can be from a managerial standpoint, it can be risk management, threat intelligence, making sure your company is covered with policies, procedures, governance, things like that.”  

On a technical level, cybersecurity is used to protect data from hackers. It is vital to understand the components of a network – firewalls, routers, switches, and more – as well as how to scan a network. Cybersecurity also involves aspects of communication, as individuals must propose strategies of protection to others. Both aspects, the technical and the social, are necessary components to the discipline.  

“We are a social science,” Kohnke said. “People, process, and technology – that is what we are.”  

Through this human aspect, Kohnke hopes that Cybersecurity Club can offer a space for students to develop relationships with one another while engaging in fun, exciting and educational activities.