ST. LEO — It’s an issue that’s befuddling businesses, worrying government agencies and causing headaches for individuals.
As more information is stored on computers — health data, credit card information, bank account records — the threat that someone with bad intentions can access the information grows.
But that problem also represents job opportunities, and with that in mind, Saint Leo University announced this week it is launching a new master’s degree program in cybersecurity, where people with a background in information technology can improve their skills in protecting digital information from cybercriminals.
The program begins in the fall, but the university already is recruiting students. The university said it plans to install a cybersecurity laboratory on the fourth floor of the Donald R. Tapia School of Business.
The 36-credit-hour program is for IT professionals and is designed to equip them with the skills needed to secure the cyber-records of businesses, law enforcement, other government agencies and academia, the university reports.
“The job outlook for this area is very good, and in the Tampa Bay area, the demand far exceeds the supply,” Vyas Krishnan, chairman of computer science and information systems, said in a prepared statement.
The first group of students will take classes on alternate Saturdays at Saint Leo’s main campus, on State Road 52 in the town of St. Leo. Beginning in the spring of 2015, the program will be offered online.
Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree in management information services, computer information services, computer science, computer engineering or a related field. The faculty can work with prospective students who lack a bachelor’s degree in any of those fields and advise them on what undergraduate courses they would need to complete to be admitted.
Prospective students who want more information can contact Krishnan at email@example.com.
Cybersecurity has become a hot topic. Hackers can disrupt businesses, steal identities or threaten national security.
One of the more celebrated cases happened during the holiday shopping season when Target revealed that through a security breach, hackers may have gotten credit card information and personal identification numbers of 40 million people and addresses, phone numbers and emails of 70 million people.
Worries about cybersecurity weigh heavily even on small businesses. In a 2013 survey by the National Small Business Association, 94 percent of small businesses said they were very or somewhat concerned about cybersecurity.
Also, the small business owners listed security as one of the biggest challenges they face with technology, second only to the cost of needed upgrades.
For many of those business owners, cybersecurity isn’t just a hypothetical. The survey showed 44 percent of them have been a victim of a cyberattack.
The ways those attacks affected the businesses include service interruptions, false information sent from their web domains or email addresses, sensitive information and data stolen and hackers accessing business bank accounts.
Even as Saint Leo University is launching its master’s degree program, the University of South Florida is in the process of developing a proposed Florida Center for Cybersecurity, something the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott say is needed as cybercrimes increase and the job opportunities for fighting them blossom.
The state’s goal in creating such a center includes positioning Florida as a national leader in cybersecurity, enhancing the state’s cybersecurity workforce, and acting as a cybersecurity clearinghouse for business and higher education communities.
On Monday, USF and the SunTrust Foundation will host a breakfast with a presentation by P.W. Singer, co-author of the book “Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know.”