In 2018, 90 million Facebook accounts were compromised in a security breach.
The 2017 Equifax data breach may have exposed private information belonging to 143 million people—including Social Security numbers, birthdays and addresses.
Every two seconds, another American falls victim to identity theft due to a cyber breach.
In the face of emerging technology and cyber threats, it’s clear that individuals, businesses and organizations are unprepared to defend themselves against hackers and cyber attacks.
“It used to be that the drug trade was the biggest crime in the world,” said M. Afzal Upal, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Computing and Information Science at Mercyhurst University. “Today, cybercrime has surpassed the drug trade to become the largest criminal enterprise in the world, costing the world economy trillions of dollars every year.”
This changing cyber landscape is one of the primary reasons why more and more colleges and universities are launching cyber security programs — and in northwestern Pennsylvania, Mercyhurst University is on the cutting edge.
“Cyber education represents the next great opportunity for Mercyhurst, giving us the chance to leverage our experience, faculty expertise, cutting-edge resources, and industry connections to position Mercyhurst as a cyber leader at the undergraduate and graduate level,” said Mercyhurst President Michael T. Victor.
Undergraduate students at Mercyhurst can pursue bachelor’s degrees in Cyber Security or Data Science. Online master’s programs in Cyber Security or Cyber Risk Management — a unique discipline at the intersection of insurance and cyber security — as well as an online certificate in Cyber Security are available for graduate students and working professionals. Notably, these graduate programs welcome students from every background, and prior programming knowledge and IT experience are not required.
For most businesses and organizations, it is a matter of when — not if — they fall victim to cyber attacks. This means it is especially important for colleges and universities to provide hands-on training in real-world simulations. Mercyhurst’s MCPc Cyber Education Center provides a space for budding cyber security experts to do just that. The 8,000-square-foot facility is home to two computer labs, a cybersecurity lab and a security operations room.
Inside the cybersecurity lab, students have access to high-end computers equipped with digital forensic workstations, threat-analysis software packages, and other relevant platforms. Known as “the sandbox” — because it provides a safe environment to execute untested programs or code, mitigating the risk of software vulnerabilities spreading across the university — the lab operates on an independent network with static IP addresses and its own servers.
Down the hall from the cybersecurity lab, the security operations room is staffed by employees from Cleveland-based technology firm MCPc as well as Mercyhurst students hired to work on cyber security and data science projects for actual clients.
Across the country, few university cyber facilities can match Mercyhurst’s cyber education center. Said former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge at the facility’s 2018 dedication: “Mercyhurst University is at the forefront of developing our nation’s future cyber leaders. As cyber threats continue to mount against both U.S. businesses and government, it is encouraging to see Mercyhurst recognize and prioritize the need for a highly skilled cyber workforce to defend against cybercriminals.”
For those without a wealth of cyber security resources at their fingertips, there are a few simple tips Upal recommends to stay safe in cyberspace:
Change passwords frequently and do not share them with others.
Implement two-factor authentication as an extra security layer.
Limit the information you share online, especially when filling out online forms.
Avoid saving credit card information on websites.
Check credit reports and review credit card statements for unrecognized charges or other signs of fraud.
Avoid clicking on suspicious links in emails as well as suspicious email attachments.
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