Beginning in Fall 2015, UT will offer a cybersecurity major. This in-demand major opens the doors for students to enter an exciting and challenging career protecting information.
Cybersecurity, essentially, involves the precautions and actions taken to combat hackers and protect digital information. In this age of information, cybersecurity is not just an asset; it is imperative.
Businesses and government agencies are willing to spend large quantities of money to secure their private information. Due to this demand, careers in cybersecurity are said to be relatively recession-proof.
Kenneth Knapp, Cybersecurity Program Director and Associate Professor of Information and Technology Management, has been working on the program for about a year and a half with the support of President Ronald Vaughn.
“As society becomes increasingly dependent upon information technologies, as more and more of our experiences become online experiences, all of the internet has to be secured. The tools that we use, the devices that we use, have to be secured,” Knapp said. “So somebody who has expertise in cybersecurity and information security and network security, these professionals are going to be in demand, increasing demand.”
The program falls under the Sykes College of Business and will be housed in the new Innovation and Collaboration Building currently under construction along North Boulevard. The building will contain a state-of-the-art cybersecurity lab.
“The advantage of [the program] being in the college of Business is that the student learns not just about the technology, they’re learning all about business,” Knapp said. “That’s important because somebody who works in information and cybersecurity needs to know the business of which they’re trying to protect.”
The constantly growing field of cybersecurity offers job stability and a competitive average salary of $116,000 for experienced U.S. security professionals, according to a census study by Semper Secure, a cybersecurity initiative in Virginia.
IBM Security Services monitored 1.5 million cyber attacks in the U.S. in 2013. Even UT has dealt with its share of hacking. Between July 2011 and March 2012, a UT server error resulted in the breach of 30,000 files, comprising sensitive information on present and past students and faculty members,according to a North Carolina State University IT article,”Worst ‘EDU’ Privacy Breaches of 2011-2012.”
While a love of technology is absolutely necessary, working in cybersecurity does not mean sitting behind a computer 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Cybersecurity involves constant movement, with many analyst positions requiring travel for consultations with domestic and even international companies.
“When I left the Marine Corps my top priority was to earn my degree. I understand the importance of a formal education and the value that comes along with a degree,” said Kayla Harris, a senior management information systems (MIS) major and cybersecurity minor.
“It’s a constant game of cat and mouse. Hackers will break into systems in any way they possibly can, and the cybersecurity professional will work to detect and get them out as soon as possible and with as little damage done as possible. Every day is different, this is not a field where we can go on autopilot, they say in the military “complacency kills”, it is true in cybersecurity as well.”
Harris takes advantage of the program’s option to take cybersecurity as a minor. Knapp explained that a cybersecurity degree could couple with a variety of majors, particularly MIS majors.
Since the curriculum for the cybersecurity minor requires four courses (three of which are already part of the MIS curriculum) and two electives, MIS students can take ITM 350, Information Security Principles, and have it double as a core class for their major and an elective for their minor.
This means that, for MIS majors, only two additional courses are necessary in order to complete the minor.
Anthony Bilotto is a returning student, who graduated from UT with a degree in Biology. After working in academia, he returned to work toward an MIS degree and is currently considering a minor in cybersecurity.
“My ultimate goal is to tie in the background that I have in science and research and apply that,” Bilotto said. “I’m currently working on a management information systems degree so my goal is to try to pull those two fields together and ultimately see if I can get something in the information systems area of a biotech or pharmaceutical company.”
Bilotto has always had an affinity for technology, tinkering with and building a number of computers.
“Most students nowadays, how are they not intertwined with technology in one way or another? Take what you use every day, learn more about it and create a career out of it,” Bilotto said. “Just kind of take a step back and look at how important technology is in everyday life. In terms specifically of cyber security, how it’s important to keep all of that data that’s out there secured. Instead of just sitting there and waiting for things to happen, you can be on the cutting edge.”
Bianca Lopez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org