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New Cybersecurity Education Programs Offered By St. Louis Area Universities

(via Flickr/espensorvik)

Employment in the field of information security, web development and computer networks—cybersecurity—is expected to increase 22 percent by 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Washington University and Fontbonne University are offering new cybersecurity programs this Fall in response to the growing demand in the workforce for people in this field. 

Engineering professor Jack Zaloudek is the program director for Washington University’s new Master’s degree in Information Management and Cybersecurity. He says the benefit of their program is that it is a collaboration between the business school and the engineering school, designed to fill the “need to be able to secure the business without hobbling the business.”

Southeast Missouri State University began offering a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity two years ago. Jeremy Wiedner is a senior enrolled in the program. He is currently an intern with Emerson in St. Louis. 

“Businesses are turning to the only qualified people they can find—successful hackers,” Wiedner said.

According to Zaloudek, two areas businesses may be vulnerable to hacking are network printers and employees transferring files to home computers.  

“Who has the level of security at home that they have at work?”  Zaloudek asked. These areas of vulnerability were identified in studies by CISCO and Columbia University.

A caller expressed concern that teaching the skills needed to prevent hacking could end up giving those skills to future hackers. Zaloudek said that the graduate students in the Washington University program are professionals already in the field who have been vetted by their companies. Wiedner said that on the first day of class at Southeast Missouri State cybersecurity students sign an ethics agreement.

Another caller suggested that there may be too much focus on writing security code on top of existing code. Zaloudek agreed, saying that is something to be avoided, "sort of like putting barnacles on a boat."

Wiedner and Zaloudek also gave advice to the audience on how to avoid being hacked.

"There is a common practice called phishing, with a p-h," said Zaloudek. "Be aware of your subject line [in emails]. Be aware of who it's from."

Be aware of what you’re putting out there. Firewalls are helpful. Use some sort of encryption. It may be able to be broken but it will slow them down,” Wiedner said, adding that there are free programs available online  to encrypt both your hard drive and your email.

St. Louis on the Air provides discussion about issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh.

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