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Securing the future of the cyber world

Photo by Franck - Unsplash

Cyber security in recent years has become more and more at the forefront of the general populace’s thoughts. From social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter, to financial and banking institutions like CapitalOne and First American Financial Corp., to media conglomerates like Sony, every year sees more, and more major data leaks, breaches, and cyber-attacks. Therefore, businesses need to have varying lines of defense regarding cyber security and why the School of Information and Communications Technology at Saskatchewan Polytechnic is offering a post-graduate certificate in Cyber Security.

The Cyber Security post-graduate program has been created in the direct response to industry needs-as the ever-expanding dependency on technology grows across all sectors, not only are highly trained IT individuals required, but these workers also need a wealth of knowledge, including cyber security. Graduates who have a degree focused on IT can apply and take the Cyber Security post-graduate program to further hone and develop these skills.

“Everyone is much more aware of the threats posed by cyber security incidents. Cyber security has had a lot of exposure in the last few years,” said Joseph (Joe) Herbert, PhD, Instructor, Program Head – AIDA, CCBC, and CST, Computer Systems Technology.

While the Cyber Security program is relatively recently developed, launching in the 2020-21 curriculum year, by virtue of being in the field of technology that means the program must constantly be evaluated to be up to date. And the curriculum is vetted to ensure that the skills and tools being taught will be valuable and effective for its students.

“Technology changes at a rapid pace, so the curriculum has to evolve with it in order to include new methods and tools,” commented Herbert.

Despite being a recent offering, the Cyber Security post-graduate program has been a great success. It is currently offered in both the Regina and Saskatoon campuses of Saskatchewan Polytechnic with 30 seats being offered at each location. The course is currently full and will see its next new intake begin in January 2023.

Students of the Cyber Security program learn several skills, as well as further developing the knowledge and tools they have gained through their initial IT degree. These include hard skills such as in-depth technical knowledge of networking, system administration and programming. However, the program also aims to increase and expand on soft skills including problem solving and develop the base knowledge to become lifelong learners.

“It’s very important to stay with or ahead of the trends to keep IT systems safe,” explains Herbert, when discussing why it is important to be a lifelong learner in IT. The pace at which technology changes is rapid, so it is important to instill in the students to always be learning what’s new in the IT world.

One such skill that will be taught and developed in the students is “Ethical Hacking.” Although the term hacking may bring about images of criminals attempting to steal data and personal information, ethical hacking is a way to utilize hacking to bolster a company’s defenses. Ethical hacking is authorized hacking attempts on a computer or network to gain unauthorized access. At first glance this might seem to be counterproductive, however, it is a way to test the defenses of a network and identify any weaknesses or vulnerabilities before a real cyber security breach can take place.

Students who graduate from the Cyber Security program will be able to use their acquired skills and knowledge in a number of jobs. Careers such as Cyber Security Analyst, Systems Security Analyst and an Information Systems Manager are just a few positions that students could find themselves working in after graduation. More and more companies, large and small, are finding the need for dedicated IT departments and the knowledge gained in the Cyber Security course is invaluable.

“Many programs in the School of Information and Communications Technology have courses on cyber security. The Computer Systems Technology program has two classes on cyber security. Security is a high priority right now for all computer and Information Technology Security (ITS) programs. Any time we can incorporate ITS outcomes in a course—we will! We are actively working with industry to tailor Sask Polytech’s curriculum towards security concerns and challenges,” says Herbert.

In a world where technology is ever changing and security concerns are at the forefront, the Cyber Security program is helping to work towards a future of IT specialists equipped to take on any threat thrown at them.