In 2016, Live Well Nebraska reported that more than 300 cybersecurity threats had occurred over the previous 18 months, compromising sensitive data on Healthcare.gov. Additionally, data from government background checks, state databases, and large retail chains such as Target and Staples have been compromised in the past several years, highlighting the need for more information security specialists throughout the country. The situation is no different in Nebraska as the need for qualified information security specialists continues to grow—the information security job market in the state grew by 68% from 2010 to 2014, according to a 2015 Burning Glass Technologies report.
Here’s a run-down of what’s been happening in the cybersecurity field in Nebraska:
- In 2001, the Nebraska Center for Information Assurance (NUCIA) was founded, helping to build information assurance awareness and conduct relevant research on critical infrastructure protection.
- In 2005, the first annual Nebraska Cyber Security Conference was held, raising awareness of cybersecurity tactics and helping the public to protect their secure information.
- In 2007, Ms. Brenda Decker, Nebraska’s Chief Information Officer, was recognized as one of the 5 most influential women CIOs in the nation and as one of the premier IT leaders in 2008 (Government Technology, 2014).
Over the past several years, Nebraska companies have been working hard to develop innovative cybersecurity strategies and put them into practice. A prime example of an innovative firm is Nebraska-based internet security firm Solutionary. Solutionary offers free six-week-long cybersecurity training programs for military veterans, provided the trainees sign a two-year contract with the company. By offering free training, Solutionary has been building a workforce of highly skilled professionals (Lincoln Journal Star, 2016).
Cybersecurity professionals are needed in all fields, not just in IT firms or information assurance companies. In 2016, Nebraska Educational Telecommunications reported that a large Omaha-based furniture store, Nebraska Furniture Mart, employs cybersecurity specialists to protect the company’s assets from cyber threats. The company’s base of addresses and credit card numbers could be worth millions to hackers.
Master’s-prepared information security professionals are highly sought after in Nebraska’s public and private sectors as organizations of all types redouble their efforts to protect critical data assets and infrastructure.
Earning a Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity in Nebraska
Graduates of cybersecurity master’s programs will be prepared to work in both the public and private sectors. Graduates will be prepared to architect security frameworks for an organization’s technology assets, and have a diverse knowledge of protection and risk management techniques. Graduates will also be prepared to provide threat mitigation, build secure networks, and provide business continuity planning for disaster recovery.
As of 2016, Nebraska is home to two National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated universities that offer cybersecurity master’s programs.
The NSA and DHS offer designations for two classifications of schools that offer graduate programs in cyber defense:
- 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)
The NSA and DHS also recognize several universities throughout the country that offer online cybersecurity master’s programs. Master’s programs through designated schools are made up of approximately 30 credits, with 15 credits of core classes and 15 credits focusing on electives.
Cybersecurity professionals seeking advanced training may also pursue a post-bachelor’s certificate. These programs are typically 15 credits long and will focus on courses such as information security management, computer forensics, information warfare, cloud computing, security architecture and design, and ethical hacking and response.
Standard Admissions Requirements for Cybersecurity Master’s Programs
Applicants to cybersecurity master’s programs must be prepared to submit an excellent educational history, high GRE/GMAT scores, and appropriate prerequisites, including mathematics and programming courses.
Minimum requirements typically 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 score of 155 or higher
- Analytical score of 650 or higher
Core Courses and Electives
Core coursework will typically include:
- Cybersecurity Governance and Compliance
- Network Management and Security
- Computer Forensics
- Security Architecture and Design
- Information Security Management
- Ethical Hacking and Response
Elective topics may include:
- Physical, Operations, and Personnel Security
- Current Trends in Cybersecurity
- Risk Management Studies
- Applied Cryptography
- Cyberwar and Cyberdeterrance
- Cloud Computing
NSA and Department of Homeland Security Designated Institutions in Nebraska
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:
Bellevue University, Center for Cybersecurity Education
- Master of Science in Cybersecurity
- Cybersecurity Graduate Certificate
University of Nebraska, Omaha, Center for Information Assurance
- Master of Science in Information Assurance
- Information Assurance Graduate Certificate
Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Analysts and Specialists in Nebraska
Nebraska is home to several innovative cybersecurity firms and numerous corporations that employ cybersecurity teams to protect their technological assets. Master’s-prepared cybersecurity professionals are highly sought after in the state’s information security field.
The following job opportunities, sourced in May 2016, are not meant to provide any assurance of employment. They represent examples of the kind of employment opportunities available to cybersecurity specialists in Nebraska, and are shown for illustrative purposes only.
Cyber Analyst—Leidos, Omaha
- Bachelor’s degree or higher in a related discipline; master’s preferred
- 4-6 years of intelligence analysis experience
- Conducts intelligence integration
- Conducts cyber intelligence analysis
- Performs research to provide cyber intelligence reports and identify potential threats
- Provides assessments of threat capabilities, intent, and strategic threat implications
Cyber Security Analyst—ISYS technologies, Offutt Air Force Base
- Bachelor’s degree in a related field; master’s preferred
- At least five years’ experience in information security
- Initiates DIACAP/RMF for systems
- Provides analysis reports and recommendations
- Performs risk analysis, security control selection, and risk identification
- Provides threat remediation and mitigation
Information Assurance/Cyber Security Specialist—Strategic Professional Resources—Bellevue
- Master’s degree in an information security related field
- 7-10 years of experience
- Monitors accreditation status for programs, performs systems evaluations
- Maintains a security plan of action and provides threat mitigation
- Writes system reports and conducts ongoing research of potential threats