Following a Passion to Catch the Digital Bad Guys – Posted 5/8/15

Kimberly Monka, of Denville, earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Penn State University, but County College of Morris (CCM) is where she discovered what she really wants to do with her life – work in cyber security.

She originally planned to major in forensics at Penn State, but ended up switching her major to science. Unfortunately, building a career in science was not what she really wanted to do so she decided to enroll at CCM.

“I thought I knew what I wanted coming out of high school, but it didn’t work out,” says Monka, 26. “I was always more interested in computers, which is why I decided to come to CCM.”

As a computer science student working both on earning an associate degree and a certificate in information security, she took a network security course. It was then that she discovered the world of cyber security.

“I’ve always been interested in catching the bad guy,” she says.

CCM is the only community college in New Jersey that has a certificate in information security mapped to a federal security standard and recognized by the Committee on National Security Systems, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. The robust curriculum consists of courses in network security, security management, ethical hacking and digital forensics.

As a computer science student at CCM, Monka also has been able to gain some valuable hands-on experience. During the Spring 2015 Semester, she participated as a member of the Cyber Centurions, CCM’s cyber defense competition team, which successfully competed in the virtual qualifier round of the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. The Cyber Centurions were one of 10 teams to advance to the regional finals held at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Maryland. It was the first time a team from a New Jersey college or university competed.

Individually, Monka had an impressive showing. During the virtual round, she successfully kept the designated attack team out of her server by continually fending off attacks.

“We got a better understanding of how attacks work and what to look for,” says Monka of the competition.

At CCM, she also serves as president of the Cyber Security Club. Even though she takes the majority of her classes at night to accommodate her work schedule, she has made it a point to connect with other students in her field.

“It’s important to get involved in clubs. Getting involved you get to meet people who are interested in what you are, and you can help one another and bounce around ideas,” she says.

“CCM really is providing me with a pathway to a rewarding career,” she adds. “This way I also am able to pay out of pocket without adding to my student loans.”

Photo Credit: Kathleen Brunet Eagan