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College of Engineering to offer cybersecurity major in the fall

The addition of the cybersecurity major will allow for a new specialized focus for students in the College of Engineering. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

As technology continues to grow and users submit more of their personal information online, the risks of that data becoming stolen rises as well. To combat potential thieves, Cybersecurity analysts have become a major demand in the workforce.

The first undergraduate major of its kind at USF, Cybersecurity will be a four-year bachelor’s degree program on campus available to students within the College of Engineering this fall.

Information security careers, such as Cybersecurity, are predicted to grow as much as 37 percent through 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median salary for analysts is more than $95,000.

Robert H. Bishop, Dean of the College of Engineering, said he was eager to bring a cybersecurity major to USF after hearing about these statistics.

“There’s a tremendous demand for it, not just in the area, but nationally and globally,” Bishop said. “These are really good, high paying jobs and the demand is very high.”

As the number of cyberattacks increase, industries are looking for recent graduates to help protect computer networks and systems, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Ransomware” attacks, a type of cyberattack in which the victim must pay a ransom of money to unlock their stolen information, has increased by 36% through the year 2017.

“Industries need the talent, and they’ve been trying to acquire talent in this area and we’d like to help,” Bishop said. “There’s literally billions of devices hooked up to the internet all over the world, Cybersecurity is only going to become a more critically important element.”

Sriram Chellappan, associate professor and Undergraduate Program Coordinator for Cybersecurity at the USF College of Engineering, said he’s looking forward to not just students understanding the technological side of Cybersecurity, but the human side as well.

“Cybersecurity belongs in a separate field because it has its own challenges,” Chellappan said. “These days, the human side of cybersecurity is becoming very important. How can people themselves protect from leaks? How can people keep their bank information secure? There’s a lot of interest coming from multiple areas of Cybersecurity and privacy.”

According to Bishop, there’s a very real human interaction involved with the process.

“It’s a very broad subject area, but really it has to do with human interaction of computers and the internet,” Bishop said. “Since cybersecurity is so broad, there are requirements within the major to take courses outside of the college of engineering. There’s many aspects to cybersecurity including behavior and education and other elements. We really want our students to get the full view of cybersecurity.”

The Florida Center For Cybersecurity, a statewide agency housed on the USF Tampa campus, has been pushing to bring the state to the forefront of Cybersecurity through the military, government and other organizations in need of security analysts.

“(The Florida Center For Cybersecurity) has been a major force behind the idea of moving the University of South Florida towards the edge of Cybersecurity in the state and in the nation,” Bishop said. “Faculty in the department of computer science and engineering has really been components of this idea for many years, and it’s just now coming to fruition. I think there’s a deep understanding of the importance in this area.”

Many corporations, large and small are affected by Cybersecurity related crimes. This year, over 87 million Facebook users had their personal data compromised, according to ABC News. According to Chellappan, this shows the need of educated Cybersecurity analysts on every level.

“If you look at the Facebook privacy breach, they spoke extensively about how they aim to protect their user’s data so that things such as the privacy breach don’t happen again,” Chellappan said. “If Facebook has privacy problems in which people can exploit user’s data, it is even easier for a smaller company to be affected as well, and they will rightfully want to protect their data.”