Cyber Security major welcomes large inaugural cohort for 19-20 school year

Alex Trabold, Staff writer

This year, Mercyhurst University added the new Cyber Security major to much success. As the use of the open internet has become more widespread, internet crime has led to defensive measures needing to be taken against it, hence the need for the Cybe Security major.

M. Afzal Upal Ph.D., Chair of the Mercyhurst Department of Computing and Information Science, sees great importance in teaching students how to handle these growing problems in the digital age.

“Our Cyber Security major is designed to provide our students the hands-on training they need to protect their own assets as well as the assets of their employers from cyber criminals,” Upal said. “This involves being able to assess the vulnerabilities of computer systems, monitor threats and take measures to overcome those vulnerabilities.”

Students are noticing the strong opportunities available with the Cyber Security major, as 45 freshmen and 18 upperclassmen have chosen to focus their degrees in this newly debuted major. Upal is very happy to see this turnout, having high hopes for the future of this program.

“Our students and faculty are extremely excited to have made history by becoming part of the largest debut of a new program ever at Mercyhurst,” Upal said. “We’re proud of our accomplishments and are looking forward to having another large cohort of students to join us in Fall 2020.”

Upal sees a hands-on experience in learning about Cyber Security as a critical part of the Mercyhurst curriculum. The Cyber Security program attempts to put students in the shoes of the cyber criminals themselves.

“Our multimillion-dollar state-of-the-art cyberlab is the only one in the region to have the capability to allow the students to design and spread computer viruses, hack into computer systems and take malware apart and analyze it,” Upal said.

With all this in mind, the University has a unique benefit that makes it a leading front against preparing the next generation for the growing threats of the digital age.

Upal himself sees even commercial benefit for the students attending, giving them a good idea of the secure financial futures they can have with this major.

“Mercyhurst is the only university in the country to have a fully functioning commercial Cyber Security Network Operating Center/Security Operating Center (NOC/SOC) on campus which allows our students to get real-world cyber experience and get paid for their work,” Upal said.

He sees the efforts to teach students as an important initiative to the public, citing a shortage of proper experts who can defend people not only on business fronts, but also on international fronts.
“The major is needed because our nation faces an acute shortage of Cyber Security professionals who can protect our public as well as private infrastructure from domestic as well as foreign threats,” Upal said. “Mercyhurst has a long tradition of training professionals to meet national security challenges.”

This tradition, as noted by Upal, was initiated by the large increase in interest for Intelligence Studies in the undergraduate level after the events of 9/11.

Upal and the other professors are happy to continue this tradition in the domain of Cyber Security. With their efforts, Mercyhurst has a very strong future in leading the charge against cyber-crime.