Universities look to cybersecurity partnerships

Teaming up with industry cybersecurity providers, universities are hoping to produce more highly-skilled cybersecurity professionals

cybersecurity-educationAs the information technology industry grows, cybersecurity careers are projected to grow along with it–leading to an increased need for students to pursue cybersecurity at the higher-ed level.

National defense leaders and experts at the fourth annual Cybersecurity Summit in October revealed that in 2014, cybersecurity crimes cost the U.S. more than $1 trillion in damage, and while the FBI used to search for major security breaches every 2-3 weeks, they now search every 2-3 days.

And while organizations are constantly creating new technologies and tools to meet cybersecurity challenges, the October cybersecurity summit revealed that the industry itself is 200,000 professionals short.

Higher education institutions are forging partnerships to meet the needs of the cybersecurity industry and produce highly-skilled professionals to fill those industry gaps.

Champlain College in Vermont offers master’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and industry certificates in computer forensics and digital investigation, along with cybersecurity. The college was recently honored as the 2015 winner of the Professional Award for Best Cybersecurity Higher Education Program by SC Magazine, an IT security professional publication.

Students gain knowledge through hands-on experience, said Ric Messier, the program director of Champlain College’s Cybersecurity, Computer Forensics, Digital Investigations & Economic Crime Investigation Programs.

“They’re learning content, concept, and subject matter that go along with security, and they’re learning it through the process of doing it as opposed to reading a book,” Messier said.

Next page: How partnerships help both institutions and industry

“They’re learning the concepts through actually doing and applying them, which we believe is a really important way of not only getting them the knowledge they need, because application is an important component of education, but also in preparing them to be successful once they leave here and go out in the workforce,” he said.

Messier said the programs’ faculty hope students gain not only a broad educational perspective on cybersecurity, but also a hands-on practical skill set that empowers them to approach cybersecurity challenges with confidence.

“From a curriculum perspective, partnerships are really nice–they get the benefit of training the workforce and [making] employees feel that they’re valued, and we get to see what the businesses are actually doing to attract students, so we better understand the needs of the workforce, where it is what they’re really interested in focusing, and we can continually update curriculum,” Messier said.

An increase in cybersecurity education

Much like Champlain and the businesses and groups it partners with, other businesses and universities are partnering to enhance cybersecurity training and education.

In November, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott and BeyondTrust, an Arizona-based cybersecurity company announced a partnership to enhance the education and training of future cybersecurity professionals.

BeyondTrust will provide Embry-Riddle’s College of Security and Intelligence (CSI) with videos covering a range of cybersecurity issues such as firewalls, malware and best practices for securing assets. The videos are designed to train professionals for the Certified Information Systems Security Professional credential.

Embry-Riddle’s CSI Cyber Program has experienced significant growth since its inception in 2013. Currently, there are more than 70 students in the program and more than 100 expected next year.

“Due to the large demand in industry and government for trained cyber security workers, we expect the program to continue to grow,” said Dr. Jon Haass, Professor of Cyber Intelligence and Security at Embry-Riddle, in a press release.

CounterTack, which provides Big Data Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR), launched a new curriculum for colleges and universities offering cybersecurity coursework to students seeking employment in the field after graduation.

The program trains students on reverse engineering malware using ResponderPRO, CounterTack’s reverse-engineering, forensics and malware analysis solution specifically designed for security incident responders.

Kingston University, based in the U.K., is piloting the program, and is incorporating the tool and malware training into its curriculum with a forensic approach to endpoint security for students.

“Cyberattacks are having a very real and damaging impact on government and private sector entities,” said Dr. Dimitris Tsapsinos, who runs the cybersecurity program at Kingston University. “It is vital that our students graduate with the tools they need to recognize and remediate attacks as they increase in magnitude and impact. Our goal is to use industry-leading technology to introduce students to the tools they’ll be using upon graduation.”

“As we begin working with forward-thinking universities, we want to help counter the skill shortage we are experiencing in cybersecurity today, by lending our expertise and seeing our technology to prepare students for real-world security forensic work which necessitated this program,” said Neal Creighton, CEO of CounterTack. “As universities add cybersecurity programs to their IT curricula, students can’t rely on textbooks; they need familiarity with industry-accepted tools and practical training to succeed in the fast-paced cybersecurity environment.”

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Laura Ascione

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