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Saturday, April 1, 2023

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Cybersecurity Prevention: It’s Part of our Daily Work

SDSU maintains academic programs, research initiatives and educational campaigns designed to inform and educate, especially given the sunrise of cybersecurity threats, including those targeting higher
By SDSU News Team

Have you ever received a strange email or text that appears to come from someone you know but is asking for pieces of personal information? This is a form of a cyber threat, and they are on the rise – with the FBI reporting nearly 792,000 complaints in 2020, a new record. 


Every agency and organization is at risk for cyber threats, and this has the potential to disrupt critical functions, resulting in public safety concerns over identity theft and stolen money. Colleges and universities are increasingly a target. 


At San Diego State University, cybersecurity is among the university’s primary educational priorities, and faculty researchers and staff experts are nationally known for their work in the field. 


“Higher education is a ripe and prime target for cybercriminals,” said Jerry Sheehan, SDSU’s Chief Information Officer and Vice President for Information Technology. “SDSU has a proactive approach to training and provides needed tools for our students, faculty, and staff to protect their data. Our fundamental approach from training to instruction is that cybersecurity isn’t in addition to your job, it is part of all of our daily work.” 


Cyber Research, Training on the Rise 


SDSU offers state- and self-supported programs as part of a strategy to more rapidly deliver critical cybersecurity training to a broad range of people. In addition to specialized degree programs and certifications, faculty at SDSU have integrated cybersecurity as a core competency in many technology-based programs across the curriculum.  


SDSU offers a suite of certificates and industry mentorship through the Cyber Tech Academy, and its partners in the Graduate Program in Homeland Security, in which cybersecurity is one of the leading issues addressed. Certificate programs are available for artificial intelligence, health care and ethical hacking.


Also available is the Master of Science in Cybersecurity Management (MSCM) degree and Advanced Certificate in Cybersecurity Management from Management Information Systems (MIS), which train business professionals with the current knowledge and technical skills needed to develop organizational cybersecurity plans and risk management strategies. The university also offers a Cybersecurity Bootcamp, a 400-hour training session of in-depth instruction led by cybersecurity experts. The bootcamp provides trainees with the skills and knowledge necessary to go from beginner to professional in the field in less than a year.


“There is no shortage of statistics that underscore the large demand for cybersecurity talents and it is said that the number of cyber jobs per capita in San Diego is three times the U.S. average,” said Bongsik Shin, chair of the Department of Management and Information Systems in the Fowler College of Business. 


SDSU students, including those in computer science, MIS, computer engineering, and homeland security, have gone on to work at the likes of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), General Atomics Aeronautical, Viasat Inc, Northrop Grumman, Facebook and Amazon. 


“Employers today are looking to hire system developers and programmers that embed cybersecurity directly into the systems development process,” said MIS professor Bruce A. Reinig. “Today, cybersecurity is a primary concern from the conceptual design phase to system implementation and maintenance." 


And, just announced this month, SDSU received a five-year $6.7 million National Science Foundation grant in partnership with University of California San Diego and California State University, San Bernardino to support cyberinfrastructure, training and resources. 


At SDSU, the new grant will enable the creation of a faculty cyberinfrastructure fellow program with the goal to enhance training opportunities for faculty and staff – complementing faculty-focused initiatives elsewhere. 


For example, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) faculty members are actively engaged in research and development activities related to cybersecurity with applications to the power systems, machine learning and industrial internet-of-things (IoT) areas. In the last couple of years, ECE has hired faculty members in this area. The faculty research is supported by the Office of Naval Research (ONR). The department is also in the process of creating an Independent Doctoral Program (IDP) in the Cyber-Physical-Systems area to attract researchers and doctoral students. 


Education, Awareness Campaigns Active 


The Informational Technology Services (ITS) team consistently holds educational campaigns to make sure students, faculty and staff have the tools and resources to spot scams, report them and stay safe while engaging online. While SDSU focuses on cybersecurity all year round, October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month and is a nationwide awareness campaign. This year at SDSU, the effort is focused on cybersecurity being a shared responsibility with an emphasis on personal accountability and being proactive. 


Throughout Cybersecurity Awareness Month, ITS offers activities, games, workshops and webinars designed to engage the campus community thoughtfully and interactively while also educating on their roles, trends and resources. Information on these opportunities is available via social media and on the university’s dedicated Cybersecurity Awareness Month website, which is also home to several cybersecurity Zoom backgrounds available for download that offer an easy way to share these resources with others. 


The communication campaign running throughout the month is designed to get information in front of students, faculty and staff via email and campus newsletters as well as visitors to SDSU through digital displays across campus. Weekly tips on how to stay safe online professionally and personally are also shared. 


"Cybersecurity awareness focuses on people because cybersecurity is a culture, and you need people to be part of that security,” said Ricardo Fitipaldi, SDSU’s Chief Information Security Officer. “It is all about providing the right content, tools, and understanding so people can be empowered to protect their data and systems.”


“At SDSU, we educate and provide resources to our campus community that will help keep each member, and the campus as a whole, safe and secure. While October is a great time to refresh your memory, educate yourself on the latest threats and learn about how to access and utilize valuable resources and tools, it is important to keep this kind of vigilance a part of our everyday lives throughout the year."