University IT program supports cybersecurity growth
By Oscar Gonzalez
Companies concerned with Internet criminals are in search of new cybersecurity sheriffs.
From governments to privately owned companies, the industry is expected to grow tenfold in the next 10 years. The National Security Agency plans to bring 1,000 new jobs to San Antonio over the next three years, according to a recent report in the San Antonio Express-News.
This offers opportunities for students in Texas A&M University-San Antonio’s Center for Information Technology and Cyber Security.
“A majority of our graduates are finding positions here in San Antonio,” center director Carolyn Green said. “Some are working for security firms, others are working inside organizations protecting their systems, and others are working with financial institutions or other kinds of businesses to fit their security needs.”
As technology changes within a blink of an eye, the staff at the center actively works with corporations on behalf of the students. An advisory council reaches out to employers such as Valero, USAA and U.S. military branches to find out what qualities and skills are needed in future employees, and adjusts the curriculum to fit those needs.
So, what is cybersecurity?
“Cybersecurity has to do with ensuring that information is protected so that it doesn’t become corrupted or lost,” Green said. “Also it ensures that information is kept confidential and privacy is maintained. It can also deal with trying to protect networks, the transmission of information from place to place.”
Around 270 students are enrolled in A&M-San Antonio’s Information Assurance and Security program. Along with taking classes to learn about cybersecurity, many students participate in competitions to take the skills they learned in class and use them in real-life simulations. One such competition is a variation of Capture the Flag where one team defends a network from the opposing team’s attacks.
“To be a good security professional, you have to be one step ahead of the bad guy,” Barbara Hewitt, assistant professor of computer information systems, said. “Working in these competitions gives a heads up of what they (hackers) are trying to do and this is how we combat that.”
Desiree Teele, information technology senior, competed in multiple events representing A&M-San Antonio. The competitions allow Teele to gain practical experience to back up what she learned in class.
“They (competitions) are inviting and make you want to do more and learn more,” Teele said. “They make you a sponge.”
In Spring 2015, A&M-San Antonio will host the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition where teams from universities within the region will compete.
Students with an interest in cybersecurity can join the Student Cyber Organization. Those looking to compete can join the Cyber Security Athenaeum. Information about both organizations can be found at the center for information technology and cyber security, located in Room 159 of the Brooks City-Base Campus.