May 26, 2016

Academic Innovation

None of the nation’s top 10 computer science programs requires students to take even one cyber security course, according to a new study.

This contributes to a vulnerable digital environment in which cybercrime costs the world economy hundreds of billions of dollars every year.

To help meet this challenge, Guilford launched a cyber and network security major this semester, becoming the first institution in North Carolina to offer the degree through face-to-face classes.

More new degrees are on the way. Under the leadership of President Jane K. Fernandes, the College is aggressively pursuing academic advances designed to resonate with a new generation of students.

Other major academic developments include faculty approval of a master’s degree in criminal justice and a major in sustainable food systems. At the same time, Guilford is launching new hybrid and online courses, creating a program in user experience and design and preparing to expand its post-baccalaureate program in health professions.

In the case of the cyber and network security major, the new program will combat a rapidly growing problem.

“Nonstop cyber attacks and persistent threats are affecting our way of life. The number of detected security incidents soared 38 percent in 2015,” says Chafic Bou-Saba, assistant professor of computing technology and information systems.

“Cyber criminals are targeting all sectors of the economy, including energy, retail, insurance, medical and entertainment companies. There is an extremely high demand for skilled professionals in the area of cyber and network security.”

Like other majors, cyber and network security will require the exploration of multiple disciplines. The accounting, justice and policy studies, philosophy and political science departments offer elective courses that count toward the major, including Introduction to Fraud Examinations, Criminal Procedure, Ethics in a Digital World and Homeland Security.

“Students majoring in cyber and network security at Guilford will have the same high level of face-to-face interaction with faculty as our students in other disciplines,” says Will Pizio, associate professor of justice and policy studies.

“In addition to an understanding of cyber security systems and information assurance, they’ll gain the ability to collect, analyze and interpret technical data through network forensics.”

Chafic and Will planned the 10-course, 38-credit major, which is housed in the Department of Computing Technology & Information Systems. R.J. Blincoe ’81, who worked for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service for 28 years, shared his expertise during the design process.

While at Guilford, R.J. majored in administration of justice. In addition to fueling R.J.’s passion for criminal justice through his teaching, Professor John Grice introduced R.J. to an NCIS recruiter at a career fair.

When R.J. joined NCIS in 1982, agents used typewriters to compile their reports. Long before he rose to the position of deputy director, technology had brought changes.

“The digital age completely revolutionized the tools used in the criminal justice trade,” R.J. says. “Today’s NCIS special agents can process cases with greater depth and greater sophistication in a fraction of the time it took my generation.”

Just as technology changed the tools available to investigators, it changed the tools available to criminals. For decades NCIS has investigated sophisticated hacking and phishing cases involving the nation’s most guarded technologies. That’s why R.J. was eager to support the cyber and network security major at Guilford.

“During my time in government and now as a consultant to several federal law enforcement agencies, I see the significant demand for well-educated and motivated individuals in the cyber and network security arena,” R.J. says. “Not only are these skill sets needed in government, they are also needed in so many other areas.”

Despite strong demand for individuals with cyber and network security expertise, much of higher education has not responded, according to research from CloudPassage, a provider of security platforms for servers. Released April 7, the study found that only one of the top 36 computer science programs (according to 2015 rankings by U.S. News & World Report) requires a security course for graduation.

“I wish I could say these results are shocking, but they’re not,” CloudPassage CEO Robert Thomas says. “With more than 200,000 open cyber security jobs in 2015 in the U.S. alone and the number of threat surfaces exponentially increasing, there’s a growing skills gap between the bad actors and the good guys.”

The education system is failing students by neglecting cyber security training, the study concludes.

“Our research reinforces what many have been saying: There is an incredible IT security skills gap,” Robert says. “But what we’ve revealed is that a major root cause is a lack of education and training at accredited schools.”

The College is doing its part to shrink that gap and doing so in a distinctly Guilford way. The new major combines the latest technology and timeless Guilford values.

R.J. congratulates students pursuing the new major on both counts:

“Bravo for choosing a major that is critically needed in our country right now. Upon graduation you’ll be incredibly marketable and able to get a very good job.

“And bravo for choosing Guilford because not only are you going to get an excellent education, you are going to undergo a significant personal transformation, one in which you’ll develop an overwhelming desire to pursue justice and further develop your acceptance and appreciation for the great strength that diversity brings to our globally connected society.

“This is precisely the transformation I underwent at Guilford.”