Online Cybersecurity Master’s Degree Available in Kansas

In early May 2016, Kansas played host to Secure World Expo, a meeting of almost 400 international cyber security specialists. Taking place at Overland Park Convention Center, keynote speakers included Charlie Miller, Security Engineer at Uber; and Ben Desjardins, Director of Security Marketing at Radware.

That same week, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) held sessions at its Forensic Center in Topeka, inviting the area’s small business leaders to learn about and discuss topics including cyber crimes, physical security, and defending business against common cyber threats. Even experts from KBI and the Department of Homeland Security spoke at these sessions.

These two events highlight the growing attention being given to cybersecurity, not only in Kansas but across the country. According to IBM, in 2015 there were 1.5 million cyber attacks worldwide. That averages out to about three attacks every single minute. Computer security company McAfee estimates the annual cost of these crimes to be over $400 billion. Graduate-educated professionals in cybersecurity are needed to help combat these data breaches and protect businesses and public sector organizations from both known and emerging cyber threats.

According to a 2010 report conducted by researchers at IBM and the University of Kansas, the state is unique in terms of how heavily involved it is in fighting cyber security threats, particularly at all levels of government. Kansas has marshaled support from the public and private sectors, with a number of top universities making vital contributions to the fight. This represents a prime example of technology and policy working together for the benefit of society.

The most talented master’s-prepared cybersecurity professionals find no shortage of opportunities available to them in Kansas’s defense, healthcare, finance, retail, academic and business sectors. Among them are chief information security officers (CISO), senior cyber security analysts and directors of product security.

Earning a Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity in Kansas

Master’s degree or graduate certificate programs in cybersecurity may go by many different monikers, depending upon the school through which they are offered. Some of them include:

  • Master of Science in Cyber Security
  • Master of Science in Information Technology- Information Security/Assurance Specialization
  • Master of Science in Engineering – Security Specialization

Graduate certificates include:

  • Graduate Certificate in Cyber Security
  • Graduate Certificate in Information Security/Assurance

Both on-campus and online cybersecurity master’s programs are available to graduate students in Kansas. Master’s programs in cybersecurity often consist of about 18 credits of core courses and 18-20 elective credits, though this may differ depending upon any specialization or concentration chosen.

A post-bachelor’s cybersecurity certificate program would consist of about half as many credits.

Admissions Requirements

Most graduate programs in cybersecurity require that applicants meet the following qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering or a related field with a 3.0 minimum GPA
  • Good scores on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)
  • An average of three letters of recommendation
  • Completion of the following prerequisite courses:
    • Calculus (one year)
    • One mathematics course beyond calculus, such as linear algebra, discrete mathematics or differential equations
    • One programming course using C++ or Java
    • One course in data structures
    • One course in computer organization

Many schools will offer undergraduate-level bridge courses to satisfy the computer science and mathematics requirements listed above.

Program Objectives

Upon completing a cybersecurity graduate program, graduates should be able to:

  • Design new systems that are inherently secure
  • Protect systems such as web, mobile, and critical infrastructures
  • Perform systems assurance through application of mathematical logic
  • Conduct analysis and detection of malware and other cyberattacks
  • Perform data mining and anomaly detection to identify suspicious cyber behavior

Core Courses Found in Cybersecurity Master’s Programs

Core courses that are foundational to most graduate level cybersecurity programs include:

  • Computer Security:
    • Operating system security
    • Unix security
    • Trusted computing base
    • Authentication
    • Access control
    • Security models
    • Capability
    • Sandboxing
    • Software vulnerabilities
    • Worms
    • Viruses
    • Secure engineering principles
    • Secure programming
    • Auditing
    • Forensics
  • Internet Security:
    • Internet architecture
    • Security and attacks on TCP/IP, DNS, and BGP protocols
    • Internet protocol security
    • Firewalls
    • Intrusion detection
    • Network traceback
    • Web security
    • Encryption
    • Public Key infrastructure
    • One-way harsh function
    • Digital signature
    • Security protocols
  • Assurance Foundations:
    • Functional programming
    • Theorem proving
    • Logic for reasoning about access control, security, trust
  • Design and Analysis of Algorithms:
    • Asymptotic analysis and recurrences
    • Classical numeric algorithms
    • Advanced data structures
    • Graph algorithms
    • Divide-and-conquer
    • Greedy choice, dynamic programming, other computational strategies
    • NP-completeness
  • Principals of operation systems:
    • Design and implementation of operating systems
    • Process and memory management
    • Resource scheduling
    • File system management
    • I/O and kernel services
    • Structuring

Electives Available in Cybersecurity Master’s Programs

Programs my be customized by selecting electives available in these programs (options include, but are not limited to):

  • Fundamentals of Data and Knowledge Mining
  • Advanced Computer Architecture
  • Machine Learning
  • Malware Analysis
  • Biometrics

NSA and Homeland Security Designated Research and Education Institutions in Kansas

The National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security offer designations specific to two classifications of schools that offer graduate programs in information security:

  • CAE-CDE – National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (qualifying colleges and universities offering bachelor’s, master’s, and graduate certificates)
  • CAE-R – National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (schools that participate in research initiatives and that integrate a strong research component into the curriculum of bachelor’s and graduate programs)

As of 2016, the following schools have met the rigorous criteria required to earn the NSA/DHS National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) designation for their master’s and post-bachelor’s certificate programs:

Fort Hays State University, Department of Informatics

  • Master of Professional Studies in Information Assurance Management
  • Master of Professional Studies in Cyber Security

Kansas State University, Department of Computer Science

  • Master of Science in Engineering – Security Specialization
  • Professional Master of Technology – Unmanned Aircraft Systems Cybersecurity concentration

University of Kansas, School of Engineering

  • Master of Science in Information Technology – Information Security and Assurance
  • Graduate Certificate in Information Security and Assurance

Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Analysts and Specialists in Kansas

A 2015 report published by job market analytics company Burning Glass Technologies notes that from 2010-14, total job postings for cybersecurity positions in Kansas have skyrocketed by 168 percent. As home to three different military installations, Kansas may be the perfect place for cybersecurity graduates to begin a career in the public sector. While some cybersecurity jobs at military bases such as Fort Leavenworth, McConnell Air Force Base and Fort Riley are for military members only, others are open to civilians with secret or top-secret clearance. Kansas is also home to many private sector corporations that work as contractors for the military, offering even more career opportunities for graduates of cybersecurity master’s programs.

The following job listings (circa May 2016) reflect current job opportunities and offer insight into the numerous types of professional opportunities available to master’s-prepared cybersecurity graduates in Kansas, but are not intended to imply any guarantee of employment:

System Administrator/Risk Management Framework (RMF), Trideum Corporation – Leavenworth, KS

Responsibilities:

  • Validate, gather, organize and manage artifacts and documentation to support RMF for Army Mission Command Training Centers (MCTC)
  • Provide technical support and assistance for RMF questions
  • Facilitate RMF meetings

Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in systems management, engineering, cyber security, computer science or a related field required; master’s degree preferred
  • Five or more years of experience in implementing cyber security solutions required
  • Secret Clearance required or must be attainable

Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Cyber Security, Friends University- Wichita, KS

Responsibilities:

  • Coordinate the Friends University Center for Cyber Defense Education
  • Instruction of cyber security courses and serve as mentor/advisor for student-led activities
  • Develop and maintain Cyber Security and Cyber Defense courses and curriculum conformance with NSA National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense specifications
  • Advise institutional IT department on matters of institutional cyber security

Requirements:

  • Master’s degree in Cyber Security
  • At least two current contributions to peer-reviewed publications on CD topics
  • At least two current presentations of CD content at major regional/national/international conferences and events
  • Current membership as a subject matter expert for accrediting bodies and institutions such as ICEE or ACM

Cyber SDD Writer OG X/Military Trainer, Northrop Grumman – Fort Leavenworth, KS

Responsibilities:

  • Generate and configure cyber storylines meeting the demands of the new war-fighting domain of cyberspace
  • Inject cyber storylines through the SDD IO Cell to ensure sequencing does not have a negative effect on overall exercise sequence
  • Provide scenario products and subject matter expertise in the areas of cyber offensive and defensive operations
  • Coordinate storyline development and support dynamic scripting during exercise

Requirements:

  • Master’s degree in Cyber Security
  • Ten years of military service
  • Familiar with current Army/Joint doctrine
  • Ability to obtain DoD Top Secret clearance

Senior Information Security Engineer, Century Link – New Century, KS

Responsibilities:

  • Address security risks with new work moving to international locations
  • Conduct risk assessment on proposed international activities
  • Assess operational business procedures to ensure security
  • Recommend new security policy, best practices, standards and system configuration standards

Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Engineering or related field required; master’s degree preferred
  • Experience with technologies, process controls and tools used to minimize risk and data exposure
  • Possess or be able to attain current applicable technical/professional certifications like GPEN, CISSP, CISA, CISM, GISEC or GWAPT
  • Knowledge of information security industry and regulatory obligations preferred (such as ISO 27001/27002, SOX, PCI, NIST Framework, HIPAA, FISMA, SSAE-16 and NACHA)

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