In September of 2015, Senator John Thune hosted the U.S. Senate cybersecurity field hearings at Dakota State University. During the hearings, cyber experts highlighted the fact that cyber attacks are occurring with more frequency and with greater sophistication, and that the threat to our nation’s cyber infrastructure will only continue to escalate. In 2014 alone there were more than 780 data breaches on private sector businesses and government networks nationwide, according to the Identify Theft Resource Center.
As the cyber threat is expected to continue, experts agree that the shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals presents a major concern. In fact, Symantec CEO Michael Brown estimates that by the year 2019, the demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals will reach 6 million, and yet, there will be a shortage of about 1.5 million qualified professionals.
In South Dakota, a new generation of master’s-prepared cybersecurity experts will be needed to fill this gap. Master’s-prepared cyber security specialists are going to play a pivotal role in developing new data security technologies that will keep South Dakota’s citizens, businesses, and government agencies alike safe from malicious cyber attacks. By earning a master’s degree in cybersecurity, industry professionals will find themselves ready to take on high-acuity roles in penetration testing, vulnerability analysis, and security analysis.
Some of the most prominent South Dakota companies leading the way in cybersecurity include:
- SDN Communications in Sioux Falls
- High Point Networks in Sioux Falls
- Black Hills Information Security in Spearfish
Earning a Master’s Degree or Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity in South Dakota
Online programs are engineered for the working professional and offer a degree of flexibility that just can’t be found with traditional on-site programs.
Master’s programs in cybersecurity generally consist of 30-40 credits, comprised of 15-20 core credits and 15-20 electives, and can ordinarily be completed in about 15 months. Post-bachelor’s certificate programs in cybersecurity typically consist of only about 15 credits.
The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offer designations to schools that offer traditional on-site and online cybersecurity programs at all levels. The designations applicable to schools that offer graduate programs are:
- 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)
Dakota State University is the one school that has achieved a mark of distinction from the NSA and DHS for its Master of Science in Information Assurance and Computer Security and Ethical Hacking Graduate Certificate programs.
As of 2016, DSU holds the original NSA/DHS Center for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education (CEA-IAE) designation, a program that is set to expire in January 2017. The school has until that time to reapply for the new CAE-CDE designation.
Standard Admissions Requirements for Cybersecurity Master’s Programs
Acceptance into a master’s program in cybersecurity is highly selective. You’ll need things like a strong academic background, robust analytical skills, and a proficiency in programming and systems infrastructure in order to be considered favorably as a candidate.
Basic requirements generally include things like:
- A bachelor’s degree in engineering, computer science, or similar field with a minimum overall GPA of 3.0
- One year of calculus plus an additional mathematics course, like linear algebra or discrete mathematics
- Completion of a Java or C++ programming course, as well as a course in data structures
- Completion of a computer organization course
GRE scores are not always a requirement for admission. In fact, some schools actually waive the GRE score requirement for applicants with a GPA of 3.0 or higher in undergraduate studies.
Program Objectives, Core Courses and Electives
The focus of any graduate-level cyber security program is to turn out skilled and vetted cyber security experts with the competencies necessary to secure information networks. As a graduate, you will be proficient in designing inherently secure systems and protecting critical infrastructures, including web and mobile systems, in addition to developing the analytical skills needed to detect and ward off potential cyber attacks. Using mathematical logic, you’ll learn how to achieve systems assurance as well as how to use data mining for the purpose of identifying suspicious cyber activity.
The typical curriculum found in cybersecurity master’s programs includes the following core courses:
- Computer Security
- Internet Security
- Assurance Foundations
- Design and Analysis of Algorithms
- Principles of Operation Systems
In addition to the core courses listed above, master’s programs often offer 15 credits of elective courses:
- Fundamentals of Data and Knowledge Mining
- Advanced Computer Architecture
- Machine Learning
- Malware Analysis
Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Analysts and Specialists
South Dakota is one of many states with a demand for cyber security specialists that exceeds the supply of qualified job candidates. While there’s a culmination of reasons for this, the bottom line is that master’s-prepared cybersecurity analysts are in high demand. In September of 2015, the chairman of the cyber operations and security department at Dakota State University predicted that there would be a global shortage of about 1 million cybersecurity professionals within the next 5 years.
Right here in South Dakota, job postings for cyber security specialists increased by 195% between 2010 and 2014. On average, it takes about 45-50 days to fill these openings, and even longer when credentials like CISSP, CISA, and CISM are required, according to a report from tech industry recruiting firm Burning Glass Technologies.
The job postings shown below are a good representation of opportunities available to master’s-prepared cybersecurity experts in South Dakota. These job profiles are for illustrative purposes only and don’t represent an assurance of employment:
Cybersecurity Engineer at South Dakota State Government in Pierre
- Minimum of bachelor’s degree in computer science, information assurance, or networking
- Between 2 and 12 years’ experience in technology engineering
- Design and implement Business Continuity Plan and Disaster Recovery Plan
- Design and implement vulnerability assessments, security analysis, and penetration testing
- Architect the deployment, integration, and maintenance of all new and existing security solutions
- Maintain secure configuration of all in-place devices and monitor for inappropriate activity
IT Manager – Security Operations at Sammons Financial Group in Sioux Falls
- Four-year degree in computer science or information systems; a master’s degree with technology as a core component is highly preferred
- Five years of management experience in IT planning and application development and leadership of an infrastructure organization
- Strong knowledge of risk management and assessment, data retention and recovery, and information systems security
- Experience with database access (SQL) and LDAP
- CISSP, CISA, CISM certification
- Management of security operations team
- Continuous analysis of information systems, recognizing data anomalies and potential security breaches
- Development and implementation of cyber security procedures
- Stays abreast of new trends in cybersecurity and emerging cyber threats
- Designs and implements security solutions
IT Security Analyst at Dakota State University in Madison
- Minimum of bachelor’s degree in computer science or cyber operations
- Firm understanding of the layer model, particularly IP stack
- Experience utilizing and analyzing the output from security infrastructure tools like vulnerability scanners and SIEM
- Strong background in internet network communications and scripting languages
- Maintain existing security architecture and enhance IT infrastructure
- Monitor and configure security systems
- Perform vulnerability scanning, identify weaknesses within the existing security systems, and analyze potential for security breaches