GUIDE to (mostly)
*** Why go to graduate school?
Speaking of Prof. Forrest, she's a perfect example of why it can be the most wonderful experience of your life to get a graduate degree. Once you are in grad school, you will get to conduct research into things that are totally amazing. See, for example, work she and her students did on a solution to a scary vulnerability in Border Gateway Protocol (BGP): http://www.cs.unm.edu/~karlinjf/research.html and http://www.cs.unm.edu/~treport/tr/05-10/pgbgp.pdf
Unlike some greedy professors who demand to be listed as first author on any papers developed by their students' research, Prof. Forrest gives her students lots of respect. In the paper noted above, her student Josh Karlin is listed as the first author. When checking out the professors where you are thinking of going to school, it's a good idea to make certain that they treat their students with respect and give them the honors they deserve.
You can check out Prof. Forrest's current and past students here:
Another super example of a professor who specializes in computer security is Prof. Chenxi Wang of Carnegie Mellon. Her students have told me that she is fantastic. You can get an idea of what she offers her students at her home page, http://www.ece.cmu.edu/~chenxi/ and at http://www.ece.cmu.edu/~chenxi/research.html
See also the home page of one of Prof. Wang's students, Cynthia Wong, at http://www.ece.cmu.edu/~cynthiaw/
Are these people having fun, or what?
*** How to make friends with professors -- and why!
You don't have to be a grad student or even a student (yet) to make friends with professors. They all have office hours and you can make an appointment or even just drop in. But before you call or drop in, first of all, find out what research they have done and read some of their books or research papers. Then show up at his or her office and tell the professor how much you like his or her research. Let the fun begin!
You can get tons of free extra education this way, first by reading their books and papers, and by talking these over with the professors. It's much more fun this way than sitting in a classroom, and most professors (in my experience) get a kick out of discussing their research. Even better, your professor friends can help you get your dream job. Most computer security professionals end up slaving away at jobs where they have to carry a pager and rush into work at 2 AM because of something a clueless salesman did, and have to try to explain things to managers like the pointy haired dude in the Dilbert comic strip (http://www.dilbert.com/). If you get a good education, you could wind up with a career as fascinating as that of Dr. Keith Rhodes.
So, there it is. If you try to get by without a college education, or with an easy, fake degree, even if you get a bunch of computer security certifications, you will be at a disadvantage, especially as you grow old. But if you go to the right college or university, a whole new world of opportunity will open up to you. Work hard, make friends with professors and other students, and your opportunities become even greater. Besides, college is incredibly fun and always will be.
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