Celebrating 10 Years at the Forefront of Teaching Internet and Information Security
While malware, identity theft, computer piracy, and the collection and protection of big data may be familiar concerns these days , it was ten years ago that a Sheridan faculty member helped to launch a new degree to teach people how to safeguard information and protect the architecture needed to support it.
The Demands of the Digital Era
When the Bachelor of Applied Information Sciences/Information Systems Security launched in 2003, “the whole concept was a bit obscure,” says Dr. Victor Ralevich, founder and coordinator of the degree. “Today, every industry and business function relies on data. It’s not just targeted and malicious attacks that we’re concerned with either. It’s about helping businesses to protect against the risk of losing mission-critical data that they have come to take for granted.”
Internet and mobile usage have grown exponentially over the past decade. In 2012, the world was home to over two billion Internet users and five billion people with mobile phones, according to reports by Mobile and Internet analyst Mary Meeker at KPCB. “Every day, we’re creating, collecting and sharing more information, especially on mobile platforms which are harder to protect,” adds Ralevich. “There’s an urgent need to educate people to design and secure network applications, databases and software systems that protect people’s privacy. Security is not something you should outsource.”
Relevant, Real-World, Hands-on Learning
The degree begins with fundamental math courses, an overview of information systems security, programming, and computer science principles and progresses to specialized courses that cover secure programming, computer security in depth, data forensics, e-commerce applications, applied cryptology, malicious code analysis, security auditing, and legal and ethical issues related to the field.
Between years three and four, students also complete an eight-month long paid internship. “Security is an intricate and complex activity,” notes Ralevich. “Structuring our field placement this way gives students the opportunity to tackle more challenging and meaningful projects than they likely would be trusted with if we had a typical four month co-op component.”
The members of the degree’s Program Advisory Council also contribute invaluable advice and experience to help ensure that the program anticipates and responds to emerging trends. Adds Ralevich, “Many members of the committee also mentor our students on their capstone projects, help identify talented part time instructors as potential recruits, and connect our students to job opportunities upon graduation.”
Students in the program also have the opportunity to participate in ‘ethical hacking’ competitions on campus and across Canada. Teams compete in various events such as back and forth battles to attack the servers of others while protecting their own, decoding cryptographic puzzles, and picking padlocks.
The program admits approximately 30 students per year, for a total cohort of 120. “We’ve had zero percent unemployment since our first cohort of students graduated in 2008,” says Ralevich. “Through an articulation agreement with Davenport University in Michigan, we’ve had about ten graduates go on to complete a Master’s of Information Assurance degree. Many who have gone directly to industry have also successfully completed the coveted CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) certification.”
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Sheridan is one of Canada’s leading postsecondary institutions, offering over 100 diploma, certificate, and bachelor degree programs in an environment that fosters innovation and creativity. Its aim is to become Ontario’s first university exclusively dedicated to undergraduate professional education – one that will be based on applied learning. The model also focuses on meeting university accreditation requirements so that Sheridan graduates have more pathways to the continued learning that will underscore their personal, career, and industry success.
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