Cybersecurity educationCybersecurity Becomes Increasingly Important: USC Students Train to Secure Networks, Data

Published 29 April 2021

With over half a million cybersecurity job openings in the industry and with increased reliance on insecure networks and infrastructures, experts say that now more than ever, students pursuing cybersecurity degrees are essential to keeping data secure. USC’s Intelligence and Cyber Operation Program trains students to identify cybersecurity issues.

In March, the global working population endured a mass migration from office work to work from home, increasing to a huge increase in the number of remote connections through which people interact with their co-workers. In a survey by IBM Security, over 53% of those polled reported using their own personal devices for work while 90% report conducting business over home networks—all of this without added security measures in place.

For this reason cybersecurity work is not just becoming increasingly important, said Associate Professor of Information Technology Practice at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering Joseph Greenfield, but also one of the fastest growing industries.

“The first student who enrolled with this curriculum in 2006 was interested in cybersecurity. The Intelligence and Cyber Operations program (INCO)—now in its third year–was born out of an increasing need to fulfill students’ interests and meet an emerging gap in a critical industry,” Greenfield said.

The INCO program focuses on an interdisciplinary approach to cyber security. Said Greenfield: “Cybersecurity is not just an engineering problem, because there is a big human element to it. INCO creates a natural pairing between topics like geo-politics and applied technical cybersecurity.”

With over half a million job openings in the industry and with increased reliance on insecure networks and infrastructures, Greenfield said that now more than ever, students pursuing such degrees are essential to keeping data secure. And cybersecurity represents one of the most stable fields.

Shifting Workforce
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a phenomenon that was already in progress: mass migration to remote work. Nearly overnight, companies abruptly shifted from a primarily on-premises workforce to a majority work-from-home configuration. Many experts speculate that many employees may remain in a remote arrangement indefinitely.

This has brought to light concerns over safety and security procedures, while at the same time creating an even bigger gap between available jobs and qualified specialists to fill them.

New and increased concerns lie in securing remote workers who are using home networks, personal devices, and personal applications to connect to company assets, rather than working behind a corporate firewall.

Said Greenfield: “This program is about meeting today’s needs and our future needs as well. These problems are not going to go away.”