Technical Institute to Train Future Cybersecurity Experts with WatchGuard
The higher education institute N. Copernico - A.Carpeggiani in Ferrara (IIS Copernico-Carpeggiani) offers a wide range of courses of study in the fields of information technology and telecommunications, chemical and biotechnology, electronics, mechanical energy, fashion, and optical. It has over 2,000 students and more than 250 teaching and technical staff. The five years of studies offer a path aimed at achieving a solid cultural preparation and the necessary skills both for a rapid insertion into the world of work and professions, and to continue studies at the university and in the higher technical institutes. What most distinguishes the institute is the high degree of specialization that are offered in the final three years, both with activities carried out in equipped laboratories, and with theoretical insights into the specific disciplines.
IT4YOU is a system integrator from Fiesso Umbertiano (RO), partner of WatchGuard since 2013 and partner of IIS Copernico-Carpeggiani thanks to a signed agreement for school-work integration. In 2019 the institute asked Alessandro Vannini, IT4YOU system engineer and ethical hacker, to share his experience in the field of cybersecurity with some classes of students, in which he explained that to become a cybersecurity expert there is no structured course, you need to put together various skills. After four meetings with 40 students, given the success and enthusiasm shown by the students, the school decided to create a dedicated program in which Vannini would also be involved. In September 2020, after months under the COVID-19 lockdown, Vannini presented the WatchGuard WISE program to the institute, explaining that it was intended for universities, but he wanted to make it available to the students starting from the third year.
WISE, which stands for WatchGuard Initiative for Security Education, is WatchGuard's program dedicated to academic institutions to strengthen the skills of upcoming cybersecurity professionals. It is a program designed by WatchGuard and sponsored by WatchGuardONE partners to offer institutions the products, services and expertise of the American multinational. The program provides free access for professors and students to WatchGuard Firebox network security appliances, the AuthPoint multi-factor authentication solution, and Secure Wi-Fi access points.
“Within a month we submitted the application to WatchGuard, had an online meeting with the WISE program manager linked from Seattle, and agreed on the path to follow, which would affect the third, fourth and fifth year students over a period of three years,” explained Marco Chiarini, head of the Telecommunications Department and Cristiano Fantinati, head of the IIS Copernico-Carpeggiani Laboratories. “WatchGuard products arrived in a short time and in January 2021 we started the course. We have already provided 16 hours, with 28 third-year students involved and we have a second class that will enter the project next year."
WatchGuard provided AP420 and AP325 access points, a Firebox M400, virtual machines, and all including Total Security Suite licenses, for a total value of several thousand euros.
The program, managed by Marco Chiarini, Cristiano Fantinati and Alessandro Vannini, has been adapted to the age and abilities of the students: they have tried to give great importance to practice, as well as theory, to stimulate curiosity and continue to keep the students interest alive. WISE has been included within a training space that is required by Italian law 107/2015 for school-work alternation and provides for 140 training hours.
The students of the IIS Copernico-Carpeggiani included in the WISE program have shown great enthusiasm, participation and ability. “We allow the times that the students need,” explain Marco and Cristiano. “We must avoid discouraging them with too difficult challenges: they must understand that we must first start from theory and then move on to practice. Only after understanding the basics of networking and security they can get to experiment with WatchGuard devices which, for their part, have very intuitive interfaces, so they are suitable for kids of this age group. We as teachers are also enthusiastic and have learned a lot. We hope to train future cybersecurity professionals or at least inspire them to take up this highly sought-after profession. We are convinced that technical institutes can make a great contribution to the growth of the country by training young people specialized in professions requested by companies. For years, local companies have been asking us for specialized resources, who know how to do it. If the school begins to verticalize and create real opportunities, with a training path connected with the productive reality, then people will understand that they can focus on technical institutes for a job outlet. With WISE we want to make people understand that IT security is a job that you learn when you are young and you need a structured path that we are trying to offer. "