In September of 2015, approximately 15 million T-Mobile customers’ personal information was compromised when an Experian server was hacked. Although the breached server didn’t contain any consumer credit information, the cyber thieves got away with a host of sensitive data, including social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and passport numbers. Later, in October of 2015, after an investigation led by the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, it was revealed that 200,000 Tennesseans were among the victims of Experian’s security breach.
The Experian data breach was just one of the nearly 1,000 data breaches to take place nationwide in 2015, according to Gemalto’s Breach Level Index (BLI) database, and by comparison, it was one of the smallest security incidents that year. So, the question is: What are states like Tennessee doing to protect consumers from malicious cyber attacks?
In April of 2016, in an effort to bolster the state’s cybersecurity laws, the Tennessee legislature passed a bill modifying its current breach notification laws. The preexisting law had only required that consumers be notified of breaches on unencrypted data, but as the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus pointed out “a growing number of breaches involve encrypted data as the methods used by criminals become more sophisticated.”
Tennessee’s new cybersecurity breach notification law, which took effect on July 1, 2016, addresses the evolving sophistication of cyber attacks by requiring that consumers be notified of all data breaches, whether impacting encrypted or unencrypted data.
Tennessee’s progressive, proactive approach to the growing cyber threat underscores the need for skilled master’s-prepared cybersecurity analysts who can identify network vulnerabilities, recognize potential threats, and, in response, design airtight networks that keep malicious threats at bay to protect the integrity of critical cyber infrastructures.
Here’s a look at some of the leading information security companies in Tennessee:
- Kroll Cyber Security in Nashville
- Recon Secure Computing in Nashville
- SysCorp Computer Services in Murfreesboro
Earning a Master’s Degree or Post-Bachelor’s Certificate in Cybersecurity in Tennessee
Through rigorous coursework and practical applications, graduates of master’s programs in cybersecurity will be prepared to protect the integrity of cybernetworks serving small businesses, large corporations, and government agencies alike. Graduates will be proficient in their ability to architect new systems that are inherently secure, as well as to protect data networks, including web and mobile systems. Through practical experience with intrusion detection, graduates will develop the ability to analyze data, detect malware, and identify anomalies consistent with a cyber attack.
Online master’s programs are a convenient, flexible option for working tech industry professionals who want to take their professional ambitions to the next level, but don’t have the time to commit to a traditional classroom schedule.
Both online and campus-based master’s programs in cybersecurity involve roughly 15 core credits and 15 elective credits, and can be completed in as little as 15 months. Post-bachelor’s certificate options generally consists of about 15 credits and take only half as much time as the master’s program to complete.
Standard Admissions Requirements for Cybersecurity Master’s Programs
Getting accepted into a cybersecurity master’s program can be competitive. Applicants are expected to make a strong showing with things like a robust academic profile, competitive entrance exam scores, mastery of mathematical and programming logic, and solid critical thinking skills.
Minimum admission requirements generally include:
- Bachelor’s degree in a corresponding field, such as computer science, information security, or engineering
- Minimum GPA of 3.0 in all undergraduate studies
- One year of calculus
- One additional course in mathematics (discrete mathematics, differential equations, or linear algebra)
- One course in Java or C++ programming
- One course in data structures
- One computer organization course
Applicants seeking admission into a master’s program in cybersecurity may be required to submit GRE/GMAT scores if their cumulative GPA in undergraduate studies is lower than a 3.0.
Core Courses and Electives
The core curriculum used by most programs includes courses like:
- IS Security: Management and Assurance
- IS Security: Preventing and Detecting Breaches
- IS Security: Intrusion Analysis, Recovery, and Response
- Design and Analysis of Algorithms
- Principles of Operation Systems
Elective courses may include topics like:
- Database Programming
- Global Strategic Information Systems
- Big Data for Analytics
- IT Project Risk Assessment and Control
- Information Systems Management and Application
- Advanced Computer Applications for Business
NSA and DHS Designated Centers of Academic Excellence in Tennessee
The National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security offer 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 2018, 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:
Tennessee Tech University, Cybersecurity Education Research and Outreach Center
- Master of Science in Computer Science – Cybersecurity focus
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Information Security
- Master of Science in Computer Science – Information Security and Assurance
University of Memphis, Department of Computer Science
- Graduate Certificate in Cyber Security and Information Assurance
- Master of Science in Information Systems
- Master of Science in Computer Science
Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Analysts and Specialists in Tennessee
Today’s digital landscape has created a hotbed of opportunity for cybersecurity analysts and specialists in Tennessee. One study done by The Intelligence Group (ITP) and published in Forbes Magazine found that 72% of millennial consumers research their options online before making a purchase, and in a separate study, it was reported that two-thirds of the 50-plus age group participate in online shopping. While consumers love the convenience of online shopping, it’s no secret that keeping sensitive financial data secure presents a real challenge. The the cyber marketplace is one of many factors contributing to the increased demand for cybersecurity experts.
Here in Tennessee, the demand for cybersecurity professionals continues to grow. According to a report released by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, between 2012 and 2022, information security is projected to be one of the top 20 fastest growing fields. In addition, in the four short years between 2010 and 2014, the total number of job postings for cybersecurity experts in Tennessee increased by 97%, according to a Burning Glass Technologies study.
The job profiles shown below are representative of opportunities available to master’s-prepared cyber professionals. These job listings are provided for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to be a guarantee of employment:
Cyber Risk Analyst LifePoint Health in Brentwood:
- Bachelor’s degree at minimum in the field of information technology and systems; master’s preferred
- Prior experience with vulnerability scanning, anomaly detection, and intrusion detection
- Prior experience with management of security systems, including firewalls and intrusion detection and encryption
- Performs risk analysis of all LifePoint Health information systems
- Oversees risk management for entire LifePoint network of hospitals to ensure compliance with risk management strategies
- Analyzes information security risk and develops proactive security strategies
- Monitors critical networks for security incidents and potential intrusions, identifies security solutions, and ensures resolution and remediation
Security Analyst (Incident Response) at Vanderbilt University in Nashville:
- Bachelor’s degree at minimum in a related field of study; master’s preferred
- Minimum of 2-5 years’ experience in IT security
- Must be familiar with Palo Alto firewalls and Sourcefire IDS
- Certifications such as Security+, GCFE, or GCIA
- Previous experience with scripting languages, including PowerShell and Python
- Monitoring cyber network environment for potential threats
- Performs intrusion detection and works to prevent security incidents
- Performs root cause analysis and attempts to mitigate risk to Vanderbilt’s critical infrastructure networks
- Performs data recovery, electronic discovery, and forensic analysis
- Conducts vulnerability assessments and designs cutting-edge security strategies and solutions