“Any entity, whether big or small, can be the victim of a cybercrime. It has become second nature for most of us to lock our front doors when we leave the house. Companies and agencies must take basic precautions to lock their computer systems and electronic data from cyber thieves. It is very important to train employees and not just assume they know computer security basics.”
– Mississippi Attorney General Hood (Office of the Attorney General State of Mississippi, 2015).
“Locking” computer and network systems has become increasingly difficult as hackers continue to develop advanced techniques to break through carefully engineered firewalls. These kinds of leaks have made headlines recently—large companies such as healthcare giant Anthem, cell phone provider T-Mobile, and VTech, a supplier of electronic children’s products, have experienced major security breaches in the past several years, compromising social security numbers, health records, and credit card information. In fact, Tech Insider reported that nearly 300 million records have been leaked and $1 billion stolen in 2015 via cyberattacks.
Here’s how Mississippi has responded to cyber threats over the past several years:
- In 2013, Mississippi State University developed a summer camp program called Bulldog Bytes to teach teens the principles of information technology, preparing them for careers in the cybersecurity field (Mississippi Business Journal, 2015).
- In 2015, Attorney General Jim Hood worked with other states’ attorney generals to develop a comprehensive cybersecurity plan for Mississippi.
- In 2015, Motherboard reported that the state of Mississippi’s government, along with Idaho, had the strongest cybersecurity systems in place. The report praised Mississippi’s “clear, state-specific strategy to ensure cybersecurity by partnering with people who know more about it than policymakers.”
The past several years have led to huge technological advances for Mississippi as the state develops proactive strategies for information security. The promising trend has continued—according to Mississippi’s 2016-2018 Strategic Master Plan for Information Technology, the state will implement the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s framework to ensure continued security, another boost to the state’s firewalls.
Mississippi cybersecurity analysts may work in government or in the private sector. Integrated Computer Solutions, Inc. (ICS), a technology consulting firm, is one of Mississippi’s largest cybersecurity companies. ICS is one of only five companies to be awarded a security and risk assessment contract with the Mississippi government in 2010, according to Business Wire.
In just four years, (2010-2014) Burning Glass Technologies reported that the cybersecurity job market in Mississippi has grown 161%, creating more opportunities for master’s-prepared cybersecurity analysts than in any other time in the state’s history.
Earning a Master’s Degree or Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity in Mississippi
Graduate-level cybersecurity programs seek to prepare applicants to defend integral infrastructures. Graduates of these programs will be well-versed in programming languages and database structures, have experience working with big data, and be able to architect secure systems. Graduates will also be able to employ systems protection techniques, malware detection, threat intel and risk assessment.
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 Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (qualifying colleges and universities offering bachelor’s, master’s, and graduate certificates)
- CAE-R – National Center 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 May 2016, Mississippi offered one National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated school that offers a cybersecurity master’s program and a post-bachelor certificate:
Mississippi State University—Mississippi State
- M.S. in Computer Science—Computer Security
- Information Assurance Professional Certificate
- Five year BS/MS program
Many more programs are available online through NSA and DHS designated schools housed in other states.
In lieu of a master’s degree, cybersecurity professionals interested in gaining more advanced training may also pursue a post-bachelor’s certificate. Post-bachelor’s certificate programs are generally fifteen credits long and focus on computer and network security, cloud computing, and threat intel.
Standard Admissions Requirements for Cybersecurity Master’s Programs
In order to apply to a cybersecurity master’s program, students must be prepared with an excellent education history, high entrance exam scores, and prior knowledge of basic programming languages and applied mathematics.
Minimum requirements include:
- Bachelor’s degree in a related discipline (computer science, computer engineering, or applied mathematics)
- One year of calculus and one year of a mathematics course beyond calculus
- A course in data structures
- A course in Java or C++
- A course in computer organization
If the applicant has less than a 3.0 GPA in bachelor’s coursework, the school may require GRE scores. Admissions departments look for the following:
- Verbal score of 150 or higher
- Quantitative 155 or higher
- Analytical 650 or higher
Core Course, Electives and Program Objectives
Core coursework for cybersecurity master’s programs will typically include:
- Data Communications and Computer Networks
- Designing Parallel Algorithms
- Introduction to Software Engineering
- Database Management Systems
- Network Security
- Cyber Law and Ethics
Elective topics may include:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Terrorism and Cybercrime
- Applied Cryptography
- Cyber Wargame: Blue Force Operations
Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Analysts and Specialists
Mississippi’s chief information officer, along with a team of information security professionals, have been working tirelessly over the past few years to improve the state’s cybersecurity plan. There’s never been a better time to enter the state’s cybersecurity workforce. With a job market that jumped 161% over four years (2010-2014), opportunities aren’t hard to find for master’s-prepared professionals in the field.
The following job opportunities, sourced in May 2016, are not meant to provide any assurance of employment. They represent the kind of employment opportunities available to cybersecurity specialists in Mississippi, and are shown for illustrative purposes only.
Cyber Information Security Director—Vectrus in Vicksburg
- Bachelor’s degree or higher in a related field; master’s preferred
- 10+ years of experience in information security
- Prepares daily security activities such as forensics information, incident handling, and system monitoring
- Oversees incident response, security assessments, and reporting requirements
- Reviews systems and suggests pertinent updates
Information Systems Security Engineer—Integration Innovation, Inc. in Vicksburg
- Bachelor’s degree or higher in a related field; master’s preferred 4 years of relevant experience
- Secret level clearance
- Design, test and implement state-of-the-art secure operating systems
- Conduct risk assessment and recommendations for application design
- Architect firewalls and network access security
Senior IT Security Analyst—Sitel in MS
- Bachelor’s degree or higher in a related field; master’s preferred
- 7-10 years of related experience
- Architect network, system, and application security
- Uses antivirus, antimalware, and firewalls to provide and monitor security
- Plan, direct and execute investigations of diverse systems