New Minor Prepares Students to Defend Against Cybersecurity Threats


Written by: Ashley Green (cehdcomm@tamu.edu)
Post date: March 01, 2016

A partnership between six different colleges and schools across Texas A&M, including the College of Education and Human Development, will help prepare graduates to defend against a national security concern – with a minor in cybersecurity.  The minor, offered beginning in the 2016-17 academic year, will give students a wide range of class options from programming to forensic investigative sciences.

“The growing concern is the cybersecurity arena because now that we have this network of networks, information is literally available at your fingertips and so are all kinds of other things,” said Dr. Robert Jones, clinical assistant professor of technology management.  “Here at Texas A&M we’re all required to take security training every single year and there’s a reason for that.  The potential risk and liability is huge for something to get out and that’s only increasing as more and more pieces of data get linked together.”

Cyberspace and its underlying infrastructure are vulnerable to a wide range of risk and many traditional crimes are now being perpetrated through cyberspace.  This includes child exploitation, banking and financial fraud, intellectual property violations and other crimes, all of which have substantial consequences.

“With all the data out there and circling around about you, there’s the idea that you’re one of 300 million people in the United States, so there’s some idea of safety and anonymity in numbers.  However, if you take that magnifying glass and you’re the little ant that someone chose to shine that magnifying glass right on you, that can get very uncomfortable very fast,” said Dr. Jones.

The problem is securing that cyberspace.  With an increased risk for wide scale events that could disrupt services that our economy and millions of Americans rely on, strengthening the security of cyberspace has become an important homeland security mission.

In 2013, President Obama signed an executive order to improve critical infrastructure cybersecurity.  It is designed to increase the level of core capabilities for critical infrastructure to manage cyber risk by focusing on information sharing, privacy and the adoption of cybersecurity practices.  The concern is there are not enough information technology professionals to handle the increased cybersecurity threat.

“There is a groundswell of demand, growing daily, for a more cyber savvy workforce, and more specifically, for a corps of well-educated cybersecurity professionals,” explains Dr. Daniel Ragsdale, director of the Texas A&M Cybersecurity Center.  “Many of our key partners in industry are asking us to move quickly to prepare graduates for careers in cybersecurity professions and, more broadly, to help contribute to the development of a workforce that fully appreciates the increasing threat posed by malicious cyber actors.”

The hope is to create a Cybersecurity Certificate as well as an undergraduate major as early as the 2017-18 academic year.

“What the provost has said to us in the past is that you don’t just grow programs because you can grow programs.  You grow programs to meet the needs of our stakeholders which is the workforce of Texas,” explained Dr. Jones.  “With that in mind, this definitely is something that there needs to be growth in within Texas A&M – not just to meet the immediate needs of Texas but also our national security policy and national interests.”