Hackers, beware! Local universities ramping up their cybersecurity course offerings | Crain's Pittsburgh

Hackers, beware! Local universities ramping up their cybersecurity course offerings

In this high-tech world, cybersecurity issues are on the rise, but local universities are preparing students to become white collar crime fighters.

Carlow University in Oakland recently introduced a Cyber Threat Research and Analytics MicroMaster’s certificate program for professionals looking to increase their technical know-how to meet current workforce demands.

“Carlow was very interested in building a cyber investigation program that would complement our unique Master of Fraud and Forensics online degree where students learn how to detect, prevent and remediate white collar crime,” said Mary Onufer, associate professor of Fraud and Forensics. “Many of our alums and current students work in Industries where their employers are requiring them to build skills in investigating on the clear and dark web.”

The nine-credit, online offering engages experts in fields such as accounting, finance, law enforcement, government and the private sector to help students gain an understanding of what constitutes cyber or cyber-enabled crime. Topics range from encryption and obfuscation to virtual currency.

Enrollment is currently open for the spring and fall 2018 semesters and Onufer hopes to have 20 students in each of the three courses in the program, which culminates with a two-day residency at the National Cyber-Forensics & Training Alliance in Pittsburgh.

Partnerships aim to stop hackers

Carlow, along with other institutions such as Seton Hill and Robert Morris universities, partnered with NCFTA to create up-to-date teachings designed to stop hackers in their tracks.

“We keep the curriculum fresh through a combination of efforts,” Onufer says. “Best practices for faculty has always been to stay abreast of current research by reading academic journals, attending and presenting at conferences, and being aware of the latest industry trends. Partnerships with organizations like NCFTA are also key for helping us stay current. We utilize adjunct instructors who are professionals in the field, so our students are always aware of best practices in the industry.

The idea to form the NCFTA began in the late-1990’s with the local FBI field office and several financial entities. The non-profit, which has offices in New York and Los Angeles, officially was established in 2002 to serve as a neutral and trusted enabler of information sharing between the public and private sector and academia, explains Steve Mancini, NCFTA’s chief technical officer and director for strategic operations.

NCFTA provides analytic research support, generates intelligence reports and technical feeds and provides a free Internet Fraud Alert service. The alliance has offered academic internships since its inception, and, in 2016, began formally partnering with schools for three-day training courses.

One such event will occur at Robert Morris University, in Moon Township, March 6-8.

Through hands-on training, “Dark Web Investigations” will give attendees a basic understanding of cyber threats and the people who make them and how to conduct online investigations and interact on the web without compromising themselves.

Getting their hands dirty

Mancini says the three-day training courses have been selling out with waiting lists.

Demand for cybersecurity education is so high that Seton Hill University, in Greensburg, will be adding three new courses over the next few semesters to ensure school’s teachings stay fresh with current technology: Cybercrime, Beginner Dark Web and Advanced Dark Web. Mancini will serve as the instructor.

Seton Hill’s cybersecurity bachelor’s degree program -- now in its second year – was the first to partner with NCFTA.

“With the way technology is changing, you can’t just have a week of learning about this and another week learning about that. Students really need to get their hands dirty,” says Stacy Moore, an information security officer, instructor and department coordinator for cybersecurity and external partnerships.

There are about 60 students enrolled in the program. Once they graduate, what kind of jobs await them?

“Some will work in fraud detection or policy areas, others may be more technical,” Mancini says. “It depends on their area, but because we work cross-sector and on a wide-range of cyber-related topics, there are many opportunities.”

February 20, 2018 - 10:56am