With the aid of a $1 million award from the National Science Foundation, the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at West Virginia University hopes to prepare students to help meet the demand for these cybersecurity jobs.
When West Virginia University first offered cybersecurity classes in 2003, the gravest fear of a casual internet user might have been opening an infected email attachment that erased computer files or reset their homepage.
And who could forget landing on some dodgy website that would generate a never-ending array of pesky popup windows.
Those problems were so 2003.
Hacking has since morphed into a more sinister creature. Espionage, extortion, election meddling, data tampering, credit card and identity theft… the list of immoral activities committed via cyberattacks is ever evolving. This environment calls for a lot of cybersecurity experts.
According to Cyberseek.org, there are nearly 1,000 available jobs in the cybersecurity field in West Virginia. Nationwide, there are more than 313,000 open positions.
Professor Katerina Goseva-Popstojanova said the NSF award will provide a total of 120 annual scholarships of $5,000 to 40 undergraduate students over a five-year period. The project is called Attracting and Cultivating Cybersecurity Experts and Scholars through Scholarships (ACCESS).
“The need for cybersecurity keeps increasing as we become more dependent on computers, networks and devices,” she said. “Fifteen years ago, there were barely any smartphones or tablets. Now everything is connected to the Internet or network, from health records to the water supply to critical infrastructure. Just think about how you can now control the temperature in your home from your office. There’s potential for an attack there. Cyberattacks evolve because technology evolves. It’s a cat-and-mouse game.”
The methods of cyberattacks are growing at such an alarming rate that it’s hard for government and industry to keep up. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, it’s estimated there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions globally by 2021.