Center for Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity graduate feels well prepared to respond to ever-changing security needs
After a year at another institution, Nathan Rackley transferred to Anderson University as a sophomore. He originally considered the medical field, but as a student employee in an IT department, he started seeing how God could use his skills in computer technology. Entering the new degree program offered by the Anderson University Center for Cybersecurity, Nathan grew professionally with real-world applications and experiences in the university’s cybersecurity lab; he also engaged in competitions designed to ready students for challenges actually encountered in the cybersecurity field. Nathan stays involved with Anderson University as a member of the Center for Cybersecurity’s Advisory Board.
How did you decide to enroll at Anderson University?
I attended (another institution) as a freshman with a major in Biology and an interest in the medical field. I obtained a work-study position in the Information Technology Department. Within this position, I developed a keen interest in computer science as this field appeared intriguing and exciting. Through God’s guidance in my life, I felt called to Anderson University to pursue studies in computer science. I transferred to Anderson my sophomore year and began studies in computer science. I also began working in the IT Department at Anderson University. During my junior year, Anderson University introduced the inaugural Cybersecurity major. I quickly collaborated with Dr. Kenneth Knapp to inquire about the program and felt God strongly leading me to the Cybersecurity degree field.
What interested you in becoming a cybersecurity major?
As I delved into computer science, the security aspect of coding fascinated me. I found it intriguing that the level of intelligence and understanding needed for coding most often directly influenced the level of security present throughout the code. Realizing that it was impossible for everyone to possess comprehensive knowledge of security measures across all programming languages, applications and IT infrastructure, I became keenly interested in cybersecurity. I developed a passion for this field, desiring to use my skills to help others, teach and contribute to making the world a more secure place. It was through my initial coursework in computer science that my passion for cybersecurity took root. Additionally, the constantly evolving cyber-threat landscape appealed to me. With new threats emerging every day, the prospect of continuous learning excited me.
Tell us about your job.
I currently work as a Vulnerability Management Engineer at United Community Bank, headquartered in downtown Greenville. In this role, I utilize vulnerability scanning tools to scan all internet-connected devices owned by the bank, including laptops, servers, desktops and some mobile devices issued by the IT department. My primary focus is identifying configuration-related vulnerabilities, patching-related vulnerabilities, and other areas for security enhancements. I collaborate with the device owners to address and fix vulnerabilities. Additionally, the team I work with manages the patching process, ensuring that updates from Microsoft and other providers are compatible with our systems and applications. We carefully schedule installations to prevent disruptions and system failures. I also conduct extensive security research, staying informed about threats and breaches in the financial services sector. Performing this research and information gathering is crucial in helping to maintain a secure environment. Dealing with vulnerabilities requires versatility and the ability to wear multiple hats.
What are some ways you feel the cybersecurity program at Anderson helped you professionally?
The cybersecurity program at Anderson University prepared me for a professional career and the program greatly exceeded my expectations. The program equipped me with the necessary skills and knowledge to confidently pursue job opportunities. When reading job descriptions that require specific tools and qualifications, I can confidently say that I possess relevant experience in those areas. I credit the curriculum designed by Dr. Kenneth Knapp and Dr. Brandon Grech. The emphasis on real-world applications and hands-on experience was extraordinary for preparing me for professional work. One example is use of vulnerability scanning tools in a test environment at AU. We scanned vulnerable computers to understand this process. We researched the vulnerabilities and practiced real world exploits. This education provided the knowledge base for deterring malicious attacks. While my learning continues as technology evolves, the knowledge and skills I gained during my undergraduate studies is my foundation. The AU cybersecurity program provided me with an exceptionally strong education and surpassed what most cyber undergraduate programs offer.
Is there a particular aspect of your work that gives you a sense of accomplishment?
Feeling capable and proficient in my job gives me a great sense of accomplishment. I credit Anderson University for the competence. I can demonstrate skills well in the work environment. Graduating with a cybersecurity degree from Anderson University has provided me with confidence in discussing my qualifications. I am proud of my education and can easily engage in conversations related to my field. Accomplishing goals set by my managers and exceeding expectations without difficulty, is immensely satisfying, especially considering I am still early in my career. All of this has been possible because of the excellent cybersecurity program at AU.
What advice would you give someone interested in a cybersecurity career?
There are numerous free online resources available for newcomers to the field who want to explore and determine if cybersecurity is the right path for them. It is also beneficial to connect with industry professionals on platforms like LinkedIn. Reviewing their job experiences, work history, and examining entry-level job descriptions can provide valuable insights. In addition, review of cybersecurity certification requirements will help individuals gauge their readiness for the field. Anderson University also offers resources specifically tailored to prospective students interested in cybersecurity. One such resource is a capture the flag competition created by one of the professors. Capture the flag competitions are scenario-based skill challenges that encompass many facets of the cybersecurity field from hacking, and vulnerability to open-sourceintelligence, etc. The capture the flag challenge serves as an excellent learning opportunity and provides access to free resources for further skill development.
It seems that you were led by God into this position.
Indeed, the Lord guided my journey to AU every step of the way starting from my transfer to AU to giving me a passion for cybersecurity. God guided the selection of high-quality professors to develop a top-notch program, and this has been beyond anything I could have imagined. It is evident that God's hand guided not only my life but also the lives of every student who interacts with the professors. Our professors’ strong faith and expertise benefit all who come through the program. Anderson University has been an incredible blessing in my life, and I will forever view it as such.
We talked about the strong showings by Anderson's cybersecurity majors in CTF competitions. Could you tell us more about that?
As the president of the Cyber Club during its inaugural year, I had the privilege of working alongside three other students who helped to create the club. We diligently sought out competitions that would challenge us, allowing us to apply our knowledge and skills. Brandon served as our coach, dedicating two hours per week outside of class to teach us various tools and techniques. These sessions complemented what we learned in class and helped us excel in the challenges. The experience was invaluable, equipping me with the necessary skills and techniques to compete at a high level. It is gratifying to see the students who came after us continue to build on that legacy and achieve even greater heights.