Learn How to Stop Hackers in Their Tracks

Cyber security and defense degrees are a growing trend in higher education.

Though we haven’t yet reached Neuromancer-levels of a cyberpunk dystopia, our world is increasingly connected through our networks and digital devices. 

Every company, organization or power and service utility has either an internal network, connects to the vast cyberscape of the Internet or both.  Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous. The Internet of Things (IoT) evangelists want your house, car and basically everything you own to talk to each other.

And all of this connectedness is great – until it’s compromised and used against us.

Unprecedented connectivity leads to unprecedented opportunities to take advantage of that connectivity, meaning that all these networks and devices are an increasingly tempting target – and an increasingly vulnerable one, at that.

This is why cyber security and cyber defense—fields at the intersection of engineering and computer science—are growing so quickly.

The Rise of the Cyber Security Degree

These fields rely on engineers, especially those working in software and electronics engineering. As the importance of these fields grows, so to have corresponding university and college programs for specialized degrees in cyber security and defense.

As an example of these new educational opportunities, the newly opened Cyber Lab at Michigan’s Walsh College is a recent addition to the list of NSA-designated Centers for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD).

The NSA’s CAE-CD designation encompasses undergraduate, graduate and research-based degrees at higher education institutions. The programs have to meet stringent guidelines in terms of their curriculum coverage of cyber security and defense knowledge areas.

Real-World Training in Cyber Defense

Study and training labs like the one at Walsh are a vital part of these educational efforts. In this case, the Cyber Lab provides students with research support, training on leading technologies and the opportunity to experience the physical security countermeasures faced in information technology (IT) environments. The programs also teach students both offensive and defensive strategies to protect networked systems against cyberattacks.

Typical of many cyber security labs, Walsh offers a real-world setup, including workstations, virtualization screens and “threat maps” that pinpoint computer virus and malware infestations worldwide. The lab also provides a cloud environment for penetration testing and defense deployment from anywhere in the world.

“Companies, health care facilities, educational institutions and other major users of information technology are demanding graduates who can provide sophisticated knowledge and the technical ability to defend systems from outside attack,” said Barbara Ciaramitaro, a professor and chair of decision sciences at Walsh College. “We believe our Cyber Lab enhances and expands knowledge received in the classroom.”

The Walsh lab, and other cyber defense training labs like it, “give students a competitive advantage in the industry with practical, real-world experience that is both valued by students and demanded by employers,” Ciaramitaro added.

For more information, check out the NSA’s list of CAE-CD institutions and programs, or the Cyber Lab at Walsh College.