Sid Stamm Returns to His Roots, Gives Students Tools to Meet Cybersecurity Challenges

Friday, October 23, 2015
Sid Stamm teaching a class.

Cybersecurity Expert: Sid Stamm, associate professor of computer science and software engineering, advocates that safer software produced by those aware of security risks are needed to address today's cybersecurity issues. He is a 2003 Rose-Hulman computer science alumnus who once was the lead architect and engineer on security and privacy for Mozilla.

Today's headlines have brought a plethora of new material for computer science and software engineering professor Sid Stamm to discuss in his weekly sessions with students interested in the growing field of cybersecurity.

However, Stamm argues that instead of producing more cybersecurity experts, colleges need to address the pressing need for safer software-produced by engineers, inventors, and leaders who are aware of security risks and take this into consideration while doing their job.

That's why the 2003 computer science alumnus has returned to campus after serving nearly seven years in software development with Mozilla, a developer of Internet-related software and standards. For nearly two years he was the lead architect and engineer on security and privacy for the popular Firefox web browser, helping to define, implement, and maintain the software's security features.

Also, his doctoral thesis, from 2009, focused on "Anticipating and Hardening the Web against Socio-Technical Security Attacks."

"Companies are hungry for security experts, but they need to be patient and thoughtful about whom they hire," Stamm says. "The best security engineers first deeply understand computing systems. They will not necessarily come with experience using a company's tools or have a degree in security. Instead, they will appear as inquisitive and adaptable and will learn how to apply the fundamentals of security to any situation. These are future-proof engineers who keep up with a rapidly evolving environment."

And, Stamm asserts that graduates with a degree from Rose-Hulman, like him, will possess those valuable computing skills.

The Institute is ahead of the curve, he contends, because it already offers students a security class and encourages extracurricular activities, like the annual cyber defense competition. (Former team members are now working in cybersecurity areas for corporations and government agencies.) In addition, a few other classes encourage rigorous testing and touch on security principles, which improve the quality of software the students build.

"Rose-Hulman produces very high-quality software engineers and computer scientists. My vision is to make them even better by folding security into our curriculum in concert with the other topics we already teach," Stamm states. "Cybersecurity changes rapidly, and we need an evolving curriculum to help our students constantly be prepared…It should be natural for our engineering graduates to build security-preserving products without any formal training in cybersecurity."

Personally, he was enthusiastic about returning to his alma mater to become a full-time professor, after spending a portion of the 2014-15 academic year as a visiting part-time faculty member (while continuing to work for Mozilla).

"This is what I have wanted to do since I graduated in 2003. The Rose-Hulman students are really amazing and challenge me to be at my very best every day," Stamm remarks.