Cyber security badge coursework preps manufacturers for digital threat

Published 12:01 am Friday, March 24, 2023

RALEIGH — A Salisbury native, Dr. Evelyn Brown, is spearheading an initiative designed to enhance manufacturers’ abilities to spot malicious cyber activity before it’s too late to thwart it.

Brown, whose mother still lives in Salisbury, is the director of extension research and development for N.C. State Industry Expansion Solutions and the head facilitator of TRACKS-CN, which stands for The Robotics/Automation and Cybersecurity Knowledge Sharing Coordination Network.

That network is launching the Cyber for Robotics/Automation/Mechatronics (Cyber4RAM) digital badge for workers in those industries. 

“The Cyber4RAM badge will allow manufacturing employers to provide their employees with no-cost, easy-to-understand cybersecurity awareness training that is specific to the manufacturing industry,” Brown said. “For manufacturers, having employees who can recognize the signs of a cyberattack is vital in reducing a manufacturer’s risk of becoming a hacking statistic.

“We are strong proponents of cyber awareness for everyone, but this badge is really focused on those technicians who work in those three areas at a manufacturing facility.” 

TRACKS-CN is a grant project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and developed by a network of 22 partners, including community colleges, manufacturing extension partnerships (MEPs), Manufacturing USA Institutes and other institutions and initiatives across the US. The network promotes education and training at the convergence of robotics, automation and mechatronics (RAM) and cybersecurity. 

That core mission inspired the creation of the Cyber4RAM badge, available at no cost through the grant.

“The whole motivation for the project was the fact that if you think about a lot of today’s manufacturers, they have a lot of cyber-physical systems, which means their machines are connected to the internet,” Brown said. “If that is the case, it means that they are open to outside threats and can be hacked.”

With cybersecurity threats advancing all the time, manufacturers need to know what it takes to protect their organizations from cyberattacks. The TRACKS-CN team determined that a digital badge is an effective way to spread cybersecurity awareness to those involved in manufacturing within RAM’s Operational Technology (OT) realm. So how does it do that?

The digital badge presents real-life scenarios that learners must work through using the knowledge they gain in the corresponding module.

The 11 competencies covered by the badge were selected from a list of 54 workforce frameworks for cybersecurity competencies published by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE). The 11 competencies tied to advanced manufacturing:

  • Asset and Inventory Management
  • Computer Languages
  • Data Privacy
  • Data Security
  • Digital Forensics
  • Identity Management
  • Incident Management
  • Infrastructure Design
  • Physical Device Security
  • Systems Integration
  • Vulnerabilities Assessment

Once learners complete the course, they will understand the 11 NICE competencies presented in the badge modules and be able to confidently carry out their job responsibilities and recognize signs of cyberattacks.

“It’s not that they will necessarily be able to stop the attack or prevent it, but if they behave in certain manners and have more of an awareness of these competencies, then perhaps they can go, hey boss, we need to get a cyber expert in here because we think a hack is about to happen,” Brown said. 

To access the digital course, visit For more information on how the North Carolina Manufacturing Extension partnership can help your manufacturer, visit

The material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant number 2000867. Any opinions, findings and conclusions/recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.