Cybersecurity Applications Minor Intended to Help Close Skills Gap

Cybersecurity skills are in high demand. According to Cyber Seek, there are currently more than 10,000 openings in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area for cybersecurity workers. Nationwide, there are more than 300,000.

To help close the skills gap, the CSULB College of Engineering this Fall is introducing a Cybersecurity Applications Minor. The 18-unit program is designed to provide students with skills to help in job seeking and career building. The minor is open to any student with at least a 2.0 GPA.

The courses include four offered by the Department of Computer Engineering and Computer Science in critical thinking, cybersecurity principles, computer forensics, and network security. The minor also includes a Journalism class in the politics of the Internet and an Information Systems class in systems integration and security.

“We saw the need. Everyone talks about this being a hot area,” said Assistant Professor Mehrdad Aliasgari, a computer security expert who is serving as advisor for the minor. “At industry meetings we had, they said they needed more talent.”

The suggestion to expand cybersecurity education offerings was made in particular by members of the CIO/CEO Cybersecurity Forum, a group comprising cybersecurity officials from private companies and public agencies that Engineering Dean Forouzan Golshani established two years ago to increase awareness of security issues.

In recent years, universities have been scrambling to help fill the void for cybersecurity classes. Some are offering master’s degrees and others are offering cybersecurity as an undergraduate major. The CSULB College of Continuing and Professional Education, meanwhile, is developing a four-module mostly online cybersecurity certificate program aimed at preparing individuals for cybersecurity employment opportunities.

The Cybersecurity Applications Minor is expected to be very popular with students. The problem, said Aliasgari, is finding professionals to teach the classes in today’s overheated cybersecurity job market.

“The enrollment will be high, but we need to find people to teach these courses,” he said.

Meanwhile, hackers are keeping cybersecurity professionals busy. Their latest targets are cryptocurrency markets, where virtual currencies worth millions can be stolen. Ransomware attacks, where hackers threaten to wipe out data if a ransom isn’t paid, have repeatedly been launched against hospitals and government agencies.

“Every day there is something happening,” said Aliasgari. “They don’t have to be as big as Equifax. Everyone in general is more conscious.”

And no longer can software developers ignore security when creating applications. If software is found to be flawed, it can mean a huge financial loss and PR nightmare. “It’s not just about quick prototyping and quick development,” said Aliasgari. “You need to get a product out that doesn’t backfire on you. To have a breach is a huge loss. We need developers who know what they are doing.”