New Cyber Security lab becomes available to UA students


Courtesy of the College of Engineering

Emma Breithaupt, Contributing Writer

The first Cyber Security Lab opened at The University of Alabama on Oct. 21, providing hands-on opportunities for students interested in cyber security. The University of Alabama is the first university in the state to offer a bachelor’s degree in cyber security that’s housed in computer science, and this lab creates an interactive environment for students to engage with equipment.  

A safe environment for practice

Travis Atkinson, the director of the cyber security program, described the lab best.  

“Think about it as a place for students to practice their craft. It’s providing this area for [students] to go in and get their hands dirty in a safe environment,” Atkinson said.   

Susan Vrbsky, the interim head of the computer science department, thinks that the lab is a large asset to student learning.  

“The lab will give students who are taking our Cyber Security courses hands-on experience, learning, and collaboration,” Vrbsky said.

An interactive space for students   

The lab itself includes 8, 65-inch TVs that map multiple networks, 23 desktops with a lounge area, as well as a multitude of servers that map virtual scenes for students. The network in the lab can be isolated from the rest of the University for protection, and is only accessible by students who take cybersecurity classes. Atkinson helped design the lab with his students in mind. His main goal for the lab was making it an interactive space that students can relax in while working.  

“One of the biggest things that I [thought] when we were designing [the lab] was, ‘Don’t make it look like a classroom,’” Atkinson stated.  

No classes have taken place in the lab yet, but the Crimson Defense, a cybersecurity club on campus, used it for some of its meetings since the labs opening. Zach Weske, a computer science major and the president of the Crimson Defense, spoke about the new lab.  

“We’ve used [the lab] a few times and our officers have been using it to meet before meetings. Even though a lot of the club members haven’t been able to use it yet, it’s been nice to have our own space where we can work and plan stuff. I’m hoping that [this lab] will lead to better collaboration between students,” Weske said. 

Classes begin in the lab at the start of the new year.