New Cybersecurity program coming Fall 2017

Setodzi Avoke
Junior Copy Editor

The college will be offering an associates degree program in cybersecurity, coming Fall 2017.

The security of sensitive data will have a rising demand in the increasingly internet dependent parts of government, business and private communications.

According to The Global State of Information Security Survey 2015 released by PricewaterhouseCoopers, digital security incidents around the world rose 48 percent to 42.8 million, which is the equivalent of 117,339 attacks per day.

As the criminal frontier shifts to the digital world, education, technology and crime experts like Ann Geisendorfer, department chair of criminal justice and James Looby, department chair of computer science, have identified the need for programs that will train students interested in this developing field through a joint partnership between their departments.

“In criminal justice, we [tend to] think of evidence in terms of guns, bullets and bloodstains,” said Geisendorfer.

Acknowledging this thinking, the opportunities for criminality over a smartphone or computer present a challenge to the traditional methods of investigation.

“We have to understand the value of [computers], how to [examine] digital evidence especially if it’s encrypted, because people are using their computer for crime,” said Geisendorfer.

Geisendorfer’s research preceding the creation of the program determined that there are “not that many” programs offering what this A.S. will.

While crafting the cybersecurity A.S., Looby identified what needs existed that the program could satisfy.

Looby considered what Hudson Valley alumni have needed since matriculating or entering the workforce, and what skills are needed by the global internet community.

“Our goals were to create an associates in science that can transfer to [other] security related curriculum,” said Looby.

Looby believes a functional understanding of cybersecurity necessitates a four-year follow up degree. “Would you trust someone with an A.A.S. securing your defenses for KeyBank?” said Looby.

The cybersecurity A.S. has transfer partnerships with UAlbany, Excelsior College, Empire State College, Utica College and other institutions in and out of New York state. It also has an internship agreement with the National Institute on Money in State Politics whose mission is to promote an accountable democracy by tracking campaign finance data.

The cybersecurity A.S. program demands a blend of computer science and criminal justice related principles.

“You really have to know how [cybersecurity] will fit into the criminal justice system,” said Geisendorfer. “What is evidence? What is forensic evidence? What are some of the principles governing evidence as far as chain of custody goes?” she said.

On the computer science end, Looby requires that the program teaches students to understand technical computer terminology.

Looby also wants students to know how to interact with a computer beyond the intuitive level and to become knowledgeable enough to know what to do if they’re tasked with searching a computer running an old or unfamiliar operating system.

“[Cybersecurity] has to be taught on all platforms,” said Looby. “For example, you can’t have an investigator who’s been trained in PCs walk into a Mac lab environment that says, ‘Sorry, can’t help – can’t secure it, can’t investigate it’,” he said.

The cybersecurity program blends two disciplines, criminal justice and computer science, that are intricate enough to demand their own curriculums. In order to allow students to find their specific area of study within the broad topic of cybersecurity, a restricted elective is built into the program.

As opposed to a free elective, restricted electives are agreed upon by a student and their advisor.

“If you were really interested in the accounting portion of the [curriculum], perhaps you could take another one [in addition to the single required accounting course],” said Geisendorfer.

“If you were interested in the crime of human trafficking, then I might suggest introduction to family violence or children and the law,” she said.

Geisendorfer’s goal is to allow a student’s interests to guide them toward where they’d like to be professionally.

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