Cybersecurity Partnership Gives Students A Unique Opportunity

Computer Networking & Cybersecurity major Parker Soares ‘24 wrapped up his summer internship last week by presenting his findings on automotive cybersecurity. He spent three months working for the cybersecurity consulting firm Com|Code and its CEO Markus Geier. 

Based out of Gröbenzell, Germany, Com|Code is a securities consultancy that provides robust and sustainable digital strategies, individually tailored cybersecurity concepts, and feasible data protection concepts to reputable medium size companies and large corporations. 

In 2017, Geier partnered with Champlain College to create the Munich Cyber Security Program (MCSP), a trans-Atlantic partnership connecting cybersecurity and digital forensics students with German companies near Munich. Earlier this month, he made the trip from Germany to Burlington, Vermont, to work alongside students as they finished their projects.  

The program celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. 

When asked about the partnership with Champlain, Geier said, “When I started interviewing for the internship program, I found there were no weak candidates. Even first-year students had extensive IT backgrounds with years of computing. What’s unique about Champlain is its practical approach to learning and the motivation of its students. They’re ready to work in a real-world environment right away.” 

Soares had the unique opportunity to work closely with Geier, diving into the current automotive cybersecurity landscape. Throughout his three months, Soares examined automotive standards and regulation development, created visual models of threat landscapes, documented attack timelines, helped to determine industry partnerships, and studied the automotive ecosystem. 

From right to left: Scott Stevens, Dean of the Division of Information Technology & Sciences; Markus Geier, founder of ComCode; Blake Larner-Crepeau ’18 // Computer & Digital Forensics; and 2019 Champlain ComCode interns.

The automotive industry is becoming more connected than ever, and the pandemic has shown how dependent automakers are on their suppliers and respective infrastructures. “Even though these are ginormous private companies that have their own interest, in the end this is a global approach. There is a lot of collaboration that is happening to work toward building a safer community for everyone,” said Soares in an interview with WCAX

After an in-depth analysis of recent automotive data breaches and penetrations, including control system hacking and keyless entry and key fob attacks, Soares was asked: which car can we trust never to encounter a cyberattack? He joked, “a Ford Model T or a fully manual racecar.”

“The internship with Com|Code opened my eyes to a whole other galaxy within the universe of cybersecurity,” said Sores. “My hands-on experience at Champlain College helped me excel in my role and find my path in a field that I plan on pursuing.”

Champlain’s unique Upside-Down Curriculum allows students, like Soares, to jump into classes within their majors starting from their first year on campus, gain real-world experience early on, and readily prepare for careers and new work environments. Soares is one of the many students who interned and then worked for Champlain College’s Leahy Center for Digital Forensics & Cybersecurity, giving him the opportunity to expand his technical skills and learn about real-world business interactions. 

“Champlain students are ready to make a difference in their fields before they even graduate,” says Champlain President Alex Hernandez. “Parker and his peers in the Com | Code internship program are great examples of how our cybersecurity program prepares students to solve big problems like protecting the world’s 1.4 billion motor vehicles from hackers.”

Through internships and the College’s business partnerships, Champlain students make a positive impact on communities at the local, national, and international levels. The topics students learn about at Champlain allow them to be at the forefront of solving complex, real-world problems.

To learn more about Champlain’s Computer & Digital Forensics major, click here. Looking to explore our Computer Networking & Cybersecurity major? Click here.

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