As attack vectors evolve, network security has been compromised by schemes like spear phishing and worms like Conficker and Zeus. These attacks have been waged on both the public and private sectors, and with an increase in the number of attacks comes an increased need for qualified cybersecurity specialists. It’s no surprise then that the job market for cybersecurity analysts in Montana grew an incredible 189% from 2010 to 2014. Earning a master’s degree in cybersecurity remains the best strategy for preparing for a career that involves combating current and emerging cyber threats and implementing mitigation strategies.
The state of Montana is no stranger to cyberattacks. In 2014, a large number of state residents were subject to two significant data breaches. In 2014, the state of Montana’s health department suffered a security breach that was not discovered until nearly a year later, according to Forbes. 1.3 Montana residents’ personal information was hacked, including extremely sensitive information such as social security numbers and medical records. Meanwhile, URM stores Inc., the number one food distributor in the Inland Northwest, was also hacked in 2014, threatening the credit card information of shoppers at about a dozen stores throughout Montana, according to ABC Fox Montana.
Here’s what else has been happening in the state:
- In 2014, Ron Baldwin, Montana’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) launched a statewide information security training program required to be completed by all executive branch employees (Government Technology, 2014).
- In 2014, in an effort to draw more student interest in cybersecurity, the University of Montana held its first Montana Cyber Triathlon, with the intention of holding an annual event. Open to high school and college students, the competition tests teams’ abilities in digital forensics, data analytics, and penetration testing (Missoulian 2015).
- In 2015, the University of Montana hosted a cybersecurity conference that featured speakers such as Ron Baldwin, Chief Information Officer, and the Chief Information Security Officer, Lynn Pizzini, in an effort to make cybersecurity information accessible to the public (KPAX, 2015).
Master’s-prepared cybersecurity specialists in Montana step into roles as information assurance managers, security engineers, network intel analysts, and enterprise architects for the state’s largest private sector corporations and with government agencies.
For instance, cybersecurity professionals in Montana have the opportunity to work for companies such as Oppleo Security, a Montana cybersecurity startup which developed the Sikernes cybersecurity management and defense system and won a prestigious award in 2015 (DC Inno, 2015). With numerous opportunities for career advancement, master’s-prepared cybersecurity specialists in Montana bring the freshest advancements in technology to the table.
Earning a Master’s Degree or Post-Bachelor Certificate in Cybersecurity in Montana
Upon graduating, master’s-prepared cybersecurity specialists can expect to have gained a diverse body of knowledge related to cybersecurity concepts, topics and theories, as well as advanced leadership concepts. Graduates will be able to architect secure systems, run tests, and monitor all security events as well as draw up reports showing their conclusion. Graduates will be able to architect security firewalls, and implement threat mitigation incident response protocols.
The National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security offer designations specific to two classifications of schools that offer graduate programs in cyber defense and 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 2016, Montana is not home to any National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated Centers of Academic Excellence that offer cybersecurity graduate programs.
However, The NSA and DHS recognize several universities throughout the country that offer online cybersecurity master’s programs. Online degrees are designed to complement a professional schedule by allowing full-time employees to complete their coursework at their own pace.
Many online master’s programs are collaborative, allowing students to interact with each other through forums and assist each other with group assignments. In addition, students will watch filmed lectures, complete online problem modules, and interact with cybersecurity professors. Online students will be required to complete a final paper or project on the topic of information security.
Designated master’s programs are made up of approximately 30 credits, with 15 credits of core classes and 15 credits focusing on electives. Post-bachelor’s certificate programs in cybersecurity are also available. About half the course load of a master’s program, certificate programs are also offered through select NSA and DHS recognized online programs.
Standard Admissions Requirements for Cybersecurity Master’s Programs
Students seeking admission to a cybersecurity master’s program must be prepared with prerequisite coursework and a 3.0 in their bachelor’s degree studies.
Minimum requirements include:
- Bachelor’s degree in a related discipline
- 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 scores:
- Verbal score of 150 or higher
- Quantitative 155 or higher
- Analytical 650 or higher
Core Course and Electives
Core coursework will typically include:
- Network Management and Security
- Information Security Management
- Database Systems
- Foundations of Information Security and Assurance
- Web Security and Privacy
- Computer and Cyber Forensics
- Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management
Elective topics may include:
- Intelligent Agents and Distributed Decision Making
- Applied Cryptography
- Threat Intel and Response
- Topics in Visual Analytics for Security Intelligence
Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Analysts and Specialists in Montana
With the opportunity to seek out senior positions in cybersecurity, master’s-prepared graduates in Montana are prepared to fill many information security roles. 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 Montana, and are shown for illustrative purposes only.
Cyber Security Consultant—LMG Security, Missoula, MT
- Bachelor’s degree at minimum; master’s preferred
- 3 years’ experience in information security
- Conducting penetration tests, vulnerability assessments
- Writing security test reports and presenting results to clients
- Documenting security test processes and procedures
Security Network Analyst—Raytheon in Great Falls, MT
- Bachelor’s degree at minimum; master’s preferred
- 2 years’ applicable experience
- Research and create secure computing system
- Authenticate domain services, troubleshoot IT systems
- Apply network security and monitoring
Senior Network Security Engineer—Bebee Affinity Social Network in Great Falls, MT
- Minimum AAS degree at minimum; graduate degree preferred
- 4 years’ professional experience
- Apply IT security concepts to existing systems
- Engineer new security techniques and comply with all cyber law policies
- Apply network security and threat mitigation