University News

University’s new cybersecurity program to begin this fall

Master’s program aims to foster much-needed leaders in cybersecurity with interdisciplinary approach

By
Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The University announced the inauguration of its Executive Master in Cybersecurity program Jan. 20. About 35 students — professionals with five to 15 years of experience in business, education, health care and other industries — will begin the 16-month program in online data protection in mid-October 2016, said Timothy Edgar, academic director of the program and senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

The program will not create “people who can fight hackers,” said Ravi Pendse P’17, chief information officer and vice president for Computing and Information Services. Instead, it aims to foster “leaders — people who can be at policy discussions, can drive how laws are created” and who understand and can effectively communicate about cybersecurity on an interdisciplinary level, he said.

The program — which covers human factors and behavior, economic trade-offs and risk management as well as policy and privacy — will take a collaborative approach, said Alan Usas, the program’s director. Participants will learn from faculty members in the Department of Computer Science and the Watson Institute, as well as local attorneys and professional consultants. Other departments at Brown may also contribute to the program in the future, Usas added.

While program students will not be on campus for the majority of the 16 months, they will spend five weeks together, allowing them to share perspectives as professionals from different industries, Usas said. An external advisory committee will also be assembled, giving the program further guidance and perspective.

“One of the problems with cybersecurity is that people have viewed it as a technical issue … but that approach doesn’t work,” Edgar said. By contrast, the University’s program will approach cybersecurity in a more comprehensive way that emphasizes communication and leadership.

As the only Ivy League university with a cybersecurity program, Brown “stands alone in focusing on leadership and strategic vision,” Usas said. Edgar emphasized the strength and acclaim of Brown’s computer science department. “We’ll get a lot of buzz and interest,” he said.

Since the start of the recruitment campaign last week, the program has received “a very healthy response,” Usas said.

Usas emphasized the underrepresentation of cybersecurity as a general field. “There is a huge demand for people to be trained and knowledgeable in the industry,” he said. With the increase in technology, hackers and available online data, threats to cybersecurity continue to mount against a deficit of leaders in the field, he added.

“What we’re trying to do in this program is respond … to what is clearly a growing demand for people who can provide leadership,” Usas said. The program will primarily bring in working professionals who are looking for the next step in their careers, he said.

Pendse echoed these sentiments, noting that about two million cybersecurity professionals will be needed worldwide by 2019.

“We have to communicate effectively, work together and have smart policies” to strengthen cybersecurity, he said. “Human ingenuity can never be replaced.”