University Kicks off New Cybersecurity Degree

Southeast Only University in Missouri to Offer this Degree

Students at computers, practicing cybersecurity

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

April 5, 2011 – Because in today’s age of technological advances, there is a constant need to protect America’s computers and networks from assault, Southeast Missouri State University has launched a new bachelor of science degree in cybersecurity.

The degree, approved by the Board of Regents in December and scheduled to begin next fall, is to meet society’s growing dependence on the Internet for communications and electronic digital records for storage of personal, financial, health and governmental records.

The new degree program was celebrated today at a kickoff event in the Otto and Della Seabaugh Polytechnic Building. Southeast is the only university in Missouri and one of less than 50 in the country to offer a cybersecurity bachelor’s degree.

“The security of our computer networks and systems is critical, and the demand for cybersecurity professionals has never been greater,” said Dr. Ron Rosati, Southeast provost.

Special guest speaker at today’s launch was James Andrew Lewis, director and senior fellow with the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. Lewis is one of the foremost international experts on cybersecurity, and he was the project director for the CSIS Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency. Lewis appears frequently in the media and serves on several federal advisory boards.

Southeast’s cybersecurity program will be housed in the Department of Industrial and Engineering Technology in the School of Polytechnic Studies, supported by the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Mathematics, both in the College of Science and Mathematics.

Southeast’s cybersecurity program will have a broad-based focus on both information assurance and computer forensics in a variety of application areas and will prepare graduates to meet workforce needs in government, business and industrial sectors that are concerned about issues relating to cybersecurity.

Graduates of the program will be able to protect an organization’s vital information and assets, implement cybersecurity best practices and risk management, understand and develop software to minimize vulnerabilities, manage extensive cybersecurity projects, integrate stable network monitoring and present real-time security solutions, analyze persistent threats and arrange counter measures, conduct risk and liability assessments of information systems, examine cyber crimes and support recovery of operations, and create, revise and communicate organizational cybersecurity strategies.

President Barack Obama has said the growing number of attacks on the nation’s cyber networks has become “one of the most serious economic and national security threats our nation faces.”

Dr. Randy Shaw, dean of the School of Polytechnic Studies and Extended Learning, echoed his assertion, saying, “Cyber networks are relied upon to control and manage transportation, electricity and banking, just to name a few of the nation’s critical infrastructure. Economic prosperity depends on strong cybersecurity systems built on the backbone of resilient cyber infrastructure.”

Shaw said government and private sector computer networks are constantly targeted by cyber attacks from foreign nations seeking military advantage, as well as terrorist organizations and cyber thieves who want to disrupt world security, communication or financial systems.

Rosati said the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Statistics, projects a 20 percent growth in jobs in this field nationally, accounting for 135,300 jobs by 2018, with Missouri anticipating a 21 percent growth by 2018.

Cybersecurity employment opportunities are diverse and plentiful. According to “The 20 Coolest Jobs in Information Security … and How they Make a Difference,” published by the SANS (SysAdmin, Audit, Network, Security) Institute, a recognized leader in training cybersecurity professionals, such careers as forensics analysts, network security engineers, computer crime investigators, intrusion analysts, security auditors, security-savvy software developers and disaster recovery/business continuity analysts/managers are possible.

In connection with the new degree program, a Cybersecurity Advisory Board has been established with individuals representing computer security and forensic interests for organizations in the banking, health care, telecommunications, manufacturing and law enforcement fields. Rosati says members of the advisory board have reported a regional need for cybersecurity professionals.

The new program uses existing foundation courses offered on campus in telecommunications, computer science and mathematics, and adds six new capstone courses. Rosati says one current faculty position in the Department of Industrial and Engineering Technology will be dedicated to the program and the new courses. A national search is currently being conducted to fill this position.

The Department of Industrial and Engineering Technology has equipment funds to start the program but will be soliciting grant funding to further develop the lab needed for this program, Rosati said.