GCU adds master’s degree in cybersecurity
By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University is offering a new degree to help combat cyber attacks like the WannaCry ransomware worm that recently raced across the web and infested systems in 150 countries.
The new Master of Science in Cybersecurity program, scheduled to launch in August, is intended to produce cyber experts who can detect and prevent attacks that are hurtling along the internet with increasing speed.
“We are in a race to thwart the black hats,” said Dr. Roméo Farinacci, the Information Technology & Cybersecurity program director of GCU’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology. “New cyber threats are arising weekly.”
It’s no longer a case of when criminals will commit another act of espionage, fraud or destruction — or of how far-ranging or significant the damage could be.
It’s now a race for cyberspace, a battle to protect vital and sensitive information before it is attacked, stolen, leaked or destroyed, Farinacci said.
The rise in cyber threats is growing as quickly as the job market’s demand for cyber experts. Job openings have topped several hundred thousand in the U.S. and more than 1 million worldwide, Farinacci said. Arizona is among states with the largest demand for such skills.
One of GCU’s top goals is to help fill the void by educating graduates who can quickly occupy the empty roles, which include such titles as corporate information security officer, senior security architect, information security analyst and more.
By collaborating with industry and college representatives, GCU has developed a program that aligns with the needs of the nation, Farinacci said.
“We have a program that covers the breadth of cybersecurity, with enough hands-on and detail to effectively prepare students for what the nation needs to change the tide in the cyber war,” he said.
The master’s degree program, a 34-credit online degree, prepares students for cyber warfare and cyber defense.
Students learn techniques for penetration testing, vulnerability assessment and innovation in security frameworks.
The culminating class is Cybersecurity Program Development, which challenges students to build a comprehensive cybersecurity program.
Students will also learn how to hack — a necessary evil that trains them to weed out hack attacks, he said.
“We will learn how the bad guys do what they do so we can protect against them,” Farinacci said.
It’s like teaching someone to use a gun to avoid deadly consequences, he said. The goal is to prevent harm.
“There are no hats here,” Farinacci said. “There are no white hats, black hats or gray hats because we have halos.”
Hackers-with-Halos refers to the methodology that readies Cyber Lopes (the students) to join a network of skilled professionals who perform work from a Christian worldview perspective.
“The nature of the program is to get our students out there in the workplace,” Farinacci said. “Our students want to protect people. I love that our goal is to protect people.
“Sure you learn to hack, but the goal is to protect identities.”
For more information about the degree program, click here.
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or @[email protected]