Dr. Kay Ash, vice president for Administrative Services at Olympic College, explains the partnership between the school and Western Washington University for a group of Seattle-area officials and business leaders. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)

Olympic College’s new role in stopping cyber attacks and viruses

New cyber range will enable local students to receive top-notch training close to home

POULSBO — Creating partnerships and building connections over geographical boundaries were major themes during a presentation July 13 at Olympic College on training the next wave of cybersecurity professionals right in their own backyards.

The development of a new cyber range — which will be housed at the Poulsbo campus of Olympic College, the first of its kind in Washington state — will allow students in Kitsap County to receive top-notch training while staying close to home.

College administrators introduced the new technology to Seattle-area government officials, higher education representatives and business leaders, who were on hand as part of a study mission that toured Kitsap County and the Olympic Peninsula over the weekend.

Opening in fall 2017, the cyber range acts as a closed “cloud” separate from the internet to “allow students to learn and conduct exercises in a safe, secure manner,” said Dr. Erik Fretheim, director of the Computer and Information Systems Security Program at Western Washington University.

Because the range allows students to work in its own virtual network, they can train in stopping cyber attacks and viruses without doing any damage to the public internet.

Through the partnership between the two schools, students at Olympic College can build a foundation through the school’s three-term cybersecurity program before moving on to Western Washington’s more advanced courses — they also do not have to leave Kitsap County in order to take advantage of these classes and earn their bachelor’s degree in the standard four-year time frame.

“We add breadth and depth and we end up with some really highly skilled cybersecurity people coming out of these programs,” Fretheim said.

Fretheim said the development of the cyber range was made possible by a donation of servers from Boeing — the director noted the school had just received a delivery of 50, valued at about $250,000, which significantly lowered the start-up costs for the program.

The presentation was one portion of a day-long itinerary designed to essentially advertise the opportunities available in Kitsap County to business developers and recruiters.

As part of the initiative, the group rode the new fast ferry from Seattle to Bremerton, which cuts in half the travel time of the same route on a standard ferry — another example of bringing the two sides of the Puget Sound a little closer together.

And from the moment they arrived, local leaders and organizations were eager to present Kitsap County as a land of economic and development possibilities.

One such group is the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance, an organization that seeks to attract and retain businesses in Kitsap County.

Nathan Evans, the group’s technology committee co-chair and a principal software architect at Microsoft, said the new programs available at Olympic College align perfectly with its vision to ensure the Kitsap region is a place where technology companies can establish themselves and thrive.

“The goal of the technology committee are really to make Kitsap a place where technology can thrive,” said Evans, a Western Washington University graduate. “So things like Western’s activites here are fantastic for them — that’s exactly the sort of thing we want to support and encourage.”

— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. Contact him at mkrulish@soundpublishing.com