With businesses and public sector organizations alike maintaining cloud-based records of everything from proprietary secrets to sensitive customer data, dedicating significant resources to information security has become standard practice.
Rhode Island’s political leaders realized this in May 2015 when they ordered a cybersecurity commission to be established with high profile members that include the director of the Rhode Island National Guard.
The commission’s stated goals are to strengthen cybersecurity efforts, appoint a commission leader to report directly to the Governor’s office, and improve cyber hygiene at the executive branch level of the state government. The commission suggested that with those initial steps, security across the state, including in academia, would improve.
Even before the commission was able to accomplish these initial goals, the University of Rhode Island (URI) suffered a data breach. This was a painful bit of irony considering it was the very academic institution the commission referenced in their initial report. The University said their system breach reveled the URI email addresses, passwords, and dates of birth of about 3,000 URI students, including some personal email addresses and passwords. The University handled the situation well by sending out emails to all affected students urging them to change their passwords and establish all new URI email addresses.
Despite this poorly timed security breech, Rhode Island is actually recognized as a leader in cybersecurity and is one of only a few states to have a commission designated for the purpose of improving information security in the state government.
Epsilon Systems, Rhode Island’s leading cybersecurity firm, works with federal agencies that include the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, as well as commercial clients. Epsilon provides defense services of all kinds, including a robust cybersecurity presence in Rhode Island. The master’s-prepared cybersecurity engineers that work for Epsilon Systems are all certified Red Hat Linux engineers, and have extensive networking experience with multiple operating systems, not limited to consumer products.
Earning a Master’s Degree or Post-Bachelor’s Certificate in Cybersecurity in Rhode Island
Master’s programs in cybersecurity are designed to prepare professionals with an understanding of internet infrastructures, math logic, common routes to cyberattacks, and constant threat analysis who are capable of designing and defending secure systems.
As of 2018, the options for campus-based master’s programs in cybersecurity in Rhode Island are limited to one in-state school, the University of Rhode Island, which offers:
- Professional Master of Science in Cyber Security
- Graduate Certificate in Cyber Security
- Master of Science in Computer Science with an additional Graduate Certificate in Cyber Security
URI has been designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education and Research (CAE/IAE and CAE-R) through the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security. The University of Rhode Island is the only place of higher learning in Rhode Island to have received this distinction for cybersecurity education.
For working professionals, it may be vastly more convenient to enroll in an online program. There are multiple NSA and DHS approved cybersecurity graduate programs available online that make it easier to get a quality education while maintaining current work commitments.
Post-bachelor’s certificates in cybersecurity can be completed in about half the time and would include classes that cover network security, intrusion detection, and information assurance.
General Admissions Requirements for Cybersecurity Master’s Programs
Students applying for a master’s degree in cybersecurity need to have completed a bachelor’s degree in a computer science related field and are generally expected to have at least a 3.0 GPA in undergraduate studies. If a student does not have a 3.0 GPA, they may be accepted based on strong GRE/GMAT scores. Students should also have at least two letters of recommendation for admission.
Applicants would also be expected to have functional knowledge of or have completed classes in:
- Calculus (one year)
- One mathematics course past calculus (such as differential equations, discrete mathematics or linear algebra)
- Discrete structures (one course)
- Computer programming (one course, such as C++ or Java)
- Computer organization/structure (one course)
- Computer law and ethics (one course)
- Operating systems design (one course)
Any classes a prospective student is missing can be taken at the undergraduate level before applying to the master’s program.
Core Courses and Electives
The topics a master’s student of cybersecurity will cover may vary from school to school but would typically include:
- Fundamentals of Cyber Security
- Network Assurance and Security
- Information Assurance
- File System Analysis
- Digital Forensics
- Principles of Operating Systems
- Design and Analysis of Algorithms
Elective courses may cover the following:
- Advanced Computer Architecture
- Machine Learning
- Data Mining and Knowledge
- Malware Analysis
Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Analysts in Rhode Island
Rhode Island has been prime ground for an expanding cybersecurity sector, even back in 2013 when Rhode Island-based companies in the defense industry were alerted to the need for improved information security in the maritime sector. Now, the Maritime Cybersecurity Center of Excellence has been formed based on the urging of Molly Magee, executive director of the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance, who suggested that commercial and military ports did not have proper cybersecurity measures in place. This development, among others, have created tremendous opportunity for master’s-prepared cybersecurity analysts:
The following opportunities, surveyed in May 2016, represent the types of employment opportunities available to master’s-prepared cybersecurity experts in Rhode Island. These examples are shown for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to offer an assurance of employment.
Senior Security Engineer at The Judge Group
- 6-8 years experience in Information Technology
- Master’s degree in a related field preferred
- Hardware troubleshooting experience
- Knowledge relating to firewall, secure network server, and 2 factor authentication
- Implementation of corporate firewalls and authentication systems
- Research emerging products, services, protocols in security systems
- Provide expertise in database security
Information Assurance Analyst at Epsilon Systems
- Minimum of 5 years of experience in assessing security requirements and developing DIACAP security packages
- Ability to obtain and maintain a secret security clearance
- Master’s degree in a related field preferred
- Processes complex in-house system and network accreditation requests per DIACAP Risk Management Framework
- Leads acquisition management, program management, progress tracking and evaluation, threat/vulnerability/risk analysis, security engineering, systems maintenance, etc.
- Maintains an awareness of trends within the Technology Industry