In October 2015, North Dakota leaders convened to begin exploring ways to improve security for the state’s computer network which, by one official’s account, was attacked about 68 million times in just two months.
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Appointed by Governor Jack Dalrymple and consisting of 15 members, the Cybersecurity Task Force agreed: North Dakota needs a first-class cyber-incident response strategy, particularly following a June 2015 incident when an unauthorized user gained access to a state server that contained incident and payroll reports for the state’s workers’ compensation agency.
But North Dakota’s cybersecurity efforts aren’t limited to a task force. The state’s challenges and accomplishments are addressed annually at the North Dakota Cyber Security Conference, which brings together cyber security professionals in academia, government, and industry who share best practices, strategies, and solutions.
Attendees of this conference—technology leaders, information security professionals, public policy makers, business executives, and end users—understand that cyber threats require active participation from industries and sectors throughout the state.
From systems engineers and network administrators to IT auditors and information security officers, cybersecurity professionals in North Dakota are in demand in nearly all industries and sectors, including state agencies like the North Dakota Information Technology Department and large companies like Altru Health System in Grand Forks and Halliburton in Williston.
Earning a Master’s Degree or Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity in North Dakota
Graduate-level cybersecurity programs emphasize information technology and the assessment and management of information security risks. Students of these programs learn how to use a variety of methods and tools to make strategic decisions about information security issues.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Security Agency (NSA) combined efforts to create the National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) program, which designates universities and colleges with cybersecurity programs that have met specific curriculum requirements. There are two designation classifications applicable to schools that offer graduate programs in information security and 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)
As of 2016, there are no CAE schools located in North Dakota offering graduate-level infosec programs. However, thanks to a wide array of CAE schools offering online master’s degree programs and graduate certificates, IT professionals in North Dakota still have many options available to them for completing graduate work in cybersecurity.
Online master’s degrees in cybersecurity offer a distance-based curriculum, mock threat and response drills and interactive discussion forums where students engage their professors and classmates. This means that busy, working professionals and students can still receive a quality cybersecurity graduate education with all the rigor of a campus-based program.
Standard Admission Requirements for Cybersecurity Master’s Programs
A solid undergraduate education, a fundamental understanding of applied math and programming languages, and strong graduate admission test scores are among the typical requirements for admission into a master’s degree program in cybersecurity.
Most programs require a bachelor’s degree in a related area of study, such as computer science, applied mathematics, or computer engineering, along with GPA of at least 3.0. Candidates with a lower GPA may be required to submit GRE scores. Because of the competitive nature of these programs, it is typical for colleges to require the following minimum GRE scores:
- Verbal score of at least 150
- Quantitative score of at least 155
- Analytical score of at least 650
Other admission requirements often include:
- Undergraduate coursework in areas such as discrete mathematics, calculus, data structures, Java, and C++
- Professional letters of recommendation
- A resume detailing related work history
Core Courses, Electives, and Program Objectives
Core coursework includes a number of relevant topics, such as:
- Secure software design
- Information security
- Distributed systems and network security
- Computer and network forensics
- Ethical and legal issues in computer security
Electives comprise about half of a master’s degree in cybersecurity and are often chosen based on personal interests or a preferred concentration area:
- Wireless security
- Computer architecture
- Security management
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Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Analysts and Specialists in North Dakota
According to a 2015 Burning Glass Technologies report on cybersecurity jobs, North Dakota experienced the largest gain in job posts in the nation between 2010 and 2014, rising 341 percent. The increase in job postings is indicative of the state’s progressive stance toward cybersecurity.
Master’s-prepared cybersecurity professionals, from engineers and analysts to architects and advisors, are poised for supervisory and senior-level cybersecurity positions in nearly every North Dakota industry and sector.
The following job posts, sourced in June 2016, provide a glimpse into the opportunities for cybersecurity professionals in North Dakota. They do not imply current job openings or an assurance of employment:
Security Engineer: Sanford Health, Fargo
- Performs ongoing monitoring and assessment of the vulnerability of MHS operating systems and key applications
- Recommends strategies to minimize the vulnerability of the MHS systems
- Coordinates the strategies for minimizing the vulnerability of MHS systems
- Plans, implements, monitors, and upgrades protection technologies
- Bachelor’s degree or higher in a computer-related field or equivalent work experience
- At least two years of technical experience in network operating systems, workstation operation systems, network communications and protocols, and email systems
- Thorough knowledge of current principles and techniques for protecting an organization’s computing assets
Network and Security Administration/Senior Network and Security Administration: MDU Resources Group, Bismarck
- Designs, configures, and maintains corporate security frameworks
- Monitors systems used to implement security controls across corporate systems and networks
- Supports and maintains corporate security services
- Participates on a security team responsible for the design, implementation, monitoring, and support of a security strategy
- Knowledge of information technology concepts and principles through a degree in information technology, engineering, computer science, or a related field of study
- At least 4 years of experience in information technology providing technical support for networks, hardware, and operating systems software
Network Analyst II: Essentia Health, Fargo
- Participates in the design and implementation of a secure, reliable, and cost-effective enterprise network architecture
- Administers networks to insure they meet the organization’s needs for functionality, performance, security, data integrity, and availability
- Provides input to the development of strategies, policies, and procedures to insure the secure and efficient delivery of network services
- Bachelor’s degree or higher in computer science, information systems, or a related field
- At least 3 years demonstrated experience as a network professional or experience in a technology environment