KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Cyber-attacks can take place at anytime, anywhere. And Western Michigan University senior cybersecurity student Jesse Blaine is poised to join the growing profession in protecting companies and consumers from attacks.
The field is also one of the most challenging due to the nature of attacks that bad actors can commit. Whether it’s social engineering, software vulnerabilities or even compromising hardware, cybersecurity professionals must possess a broad knowledge set to combat threats.
“The biggest challenge is being able to balance the need for security online with the need for companies to provide services that will generate profits,” says Jesse, who has worked in his family’s web design company where he was first exposed to the information technology field.
But his career started in the submarine service of the U.S. Navy, where he worked as a mechanical, pneumatic and hydraulic technician. His experience exposed him to cryptologists, who piqued his interest in encryption.
Now a veteran and mainly handling emergencies for the family company, Jesse is taking on the challenges of a Bachelor of Science degree in cybersecurity, a program he says combines textbook theory and knowledge with hands-on experiences developing and running code to attack or defend a machine.
“I’ve found that participating in cybersecurity challenges against virtual machines augments my understanding of how vulnerable machines act when faced with adversaries,” he says.
Jesse spent the summer of 2022 as a National Science Foundation sponsored undergraduate research intern at Oakland University. During that internship, he worked with students from other universities researching anomaly detection on smart airport-edge platforms. The project culminated in a poster session presentation at Michigan State University’s Mid-Michigan Symposium for Undergraduate Research Experiences (Mid-SURE).
“While researching anomaly detection with the domain of smart airports, other interns and I discovered that airports use many different vendors who use APIs within their devices,” he explains. “None of these APIs are developed in a standardized manner, nor do any of the devices have any type of standardized security. This caused us to backtrack and look into providing a standardized framework to develop APIs so that a standardized anomaly detection system could be developed. This of course turned up even more challenges we had to check out.”
As complicated as such a research project can become, Jesse relishes this type of challenge.
The experience made me realize that any type of research work I may get into will likely take months to complete,” he says. “I know I cannot expect to get into a research field and quickly make many new discoveries. But whatever I do discover gives me a rewarding feeling of accomplishment.”
Fall 2022 will be his first semester on Western’s main campus, and he plans to take full advantage of the opportunity. He is looking forward to continuing his connection with faculty, staff and other students. “It’s a very exciting time,” says Jesse, a founding member of Western’s new Cybersecurity Club whose mission is to help future cybersecurity students connect with like-minded students and offer experiences for members that will help influence their future careers.
And for all his accomplishments, Jesse is certain of his choice of profession.
“A cybersecurity professional can work anywhere and anytime,” he says. “And since bad actors work at all hours and during any situation, cybersecurity professionals will always be essential workers for any business or government.”
Learn more about WMU’s undergraduate and graduate programs in cybersecurity.
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