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The cybersecurity skills gap

The University of New Hampshire’s MS in Cybersecurity Engineering will make you a cybersecurity leader. Source: UNH

Cybercriminals who adapt, hustle and diversify better. Persisting geopolitical tensions allowing cyberthreat actors to influence mass opinions. The exacerbation of ransomware threat by self-propagating cryptoworms like WannaCry. Cyberthreat actors moving to target new avenues, like companies’ supply chain, including those for software, hardware and the cloud. Vulnerabilities in compute cloud infrastructure, allowing hackers to read sensitive data from other hosts on the same physical servers.

These are the five threats identified in just one report by Accenture. Many others no doubt exist as the world of cybercrime has been described as “thriving,” with no sufficient defence mechanism to track, let alone fight them. It’s enough to make companies from all over the world willing to spend US$103 billion in 2019 to secure their digital presence, as research from the International Data Corporation show.

Competent experts in this field have never been more sought after. And not just in the private sphere. From identity theft to human trafficking to credit card fraud, cybercrimes aren’t offences that threaten companies solely – individual lives are at stake too.

The good news is there is a university ready to supply the experts needed to protect our presence online: University of New Hampshire (UNH).

The UNH Master of Science in Cybersecurity Engineering is designed for working professionals and those interested in cybersecurity. Using project-based and applied learning, this graduate degree programme teaches students to develop, integrate and evaluate secure IT systems and services for virtually any organisation. Students here receive hands-on learning and authentic project experiences while learning the theoretical underpinnings of security engineering and the technical skills to protect data, communications, networks and services.

Experiential learning and hands-on approach for this Master’s programme at UNH. Source: UNH

Such knowledge and skills are highly prized in a world where cybersecurity job vacancies are expected to reach 1.8 million by 2022 – a significant increase of 20 percent from 1.5 million in 2015, according to the Center for Cyber Safety and Education.

Between 2016 and 2026, data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show there are 32 percent more cybersecurity jobs in the US alone – more than six times the national average growth rate for all occupations.

Globally, the cybersecurity workforce shortage can only meet demand if it there is a 145 percent increase in skilled workers.

Another global study from Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) and Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) confirmed “the cybersecurity skills shortage is exacerbating the number of data breaches”. The top two contributing factors to security incidents being “a lack of adequate training of non-technical employees” (31 percent) first and “a lack of adequate cybersecurity staff (22 percent)” second.

Analysts blame this worrying workforce shortage on the lack of computer science programmes with sufficient cybersecurity courses. Only 42 percent of the top 50 computer science programmes in US universities offer three or more information security-specific courses for undergraduates.

UNH’s MS in Cybersecurity Engineering stands out as one of the rare few offered by a well-established university.

In October 2019, UNH was designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The university earned this designation because of its homeland security bachelor’s degree programme, quality faculty, student activity in cybersecurity competitions and outreach to share cyber defense expertise with other organizations.

“This designation acknowledges that New Hampshire’s flagship public institution is on the forefront of workforce development for the high-demand cybersecurity field,” said Mike Decelle, dean of UNH’s campus in Manchester, New Hampshire. “UNH is proud to be a leader in cybersecurity education, which is crucial to the future of national security.”

UNH graduates can pursue careers in intelligence, counter-terrorism, law enforcement, risk management, emergency management and cybersecurity. Source: UNH

To spur its mission to nurture future cybersecurity leaders, UNH has also created the UNH Center for Cybersecurity Leadership, Education, and Outreach (CCLEO). CCLEO focuses on cybersecurity education and training as well as external outreach and support to businesses and government agencies in New Hampshire and beyond.

James Ramsay, professor of security studies who was part of the team that applied for the prestigious designation, said UNH students in the homeland security, cybersecurity policy and risk management and cybersecurity engineering programs use capstone projects, course assignments and internships to contribute to the cybersecurity and digital resilience of both private and public sector organisations, which better prepares students to be successful after graduation.

“Graduates of our programs are already uniquely positioned for careers in intelligence, counter-terrorism, law enforcement, risk management, emergency management and cybersecurity,” Ramsay said.

“The CAE-CDE designation and the establishment of the CCLEO will open even more doors for our students to pursue rewarding careers in the public and private sectors.”

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