New option in IST master's program prepares students to counter cyber-attacks

In today’s interconnected society, information systems are vulnerable to a myriad of threats such as unwanted intrusions, illicit insider corruption or dissemination of data, and unexpected losses from natural or man-made disaster. As a result, government and industry need to hire individuals who have the knowledge and training to combat the onslaught of cyber-attacks. To meet that demand, Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) has created a new option within its Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Information Sciences program that is designed to prepare graduates to work in the areas of cybersecurity and information assurance in the federal government or private sector.

“This option reflects the college’s academic expertise in cybersecurity and information assurance and focuses on the cybersecurity principles of maintaining the confidentiality, integrity, and accessibility of information,” said Peter Forster, assistant dean for online programs and professional education at the College of IST.

The College of IST announces the opening of a Cybersecurity and Information Assurance (CIA) option in its Master of Professional Studies in Information Sciences (MPS in IS) program, effective Jan. 1, 2014. The new program will focus on the broad threats and vulnerabilities to information systems, and will teach approaches and skills that are applicable to the business, medical, and industrial sectors as well as government.

The 33-credit MPS in IS online degree program is designed for professionals who want to take on greater responsibilities related to information technology, and for those who want to transition into a career that uses information sciences to support decision making. The Cybersecurity and Information Assurance option focuses on information analysis, cybersecurity, information assurance, and decision support. Graduates in the CIA option can work in fields including intelligence analysis, information assurance engineering, cybersecurity, systems and network security, and systems integration.

“The option reflects the college’s close relationship with government and industry, the applied nature of the MPS program, and its continuing commitment to meeting the expectations of all stakeholders (i.e. employers, students, and faculty),” Forster said.

With a growing national focus on cybersecurity and information assurance, Forster said, having an option that is highly recognized by government and industry enhances its reputation as well as that of the College of IST and Penn State.

“We want to be sensitive to what our students are interested in and we want to make sure we are teaching the subjects that are important to the organizations that hire and employ our students,” he said.

The new CIA option, Forster said, “better reflects the academic curriculum that is being taught in the MPS-IS by our faculty and allows the College of IST to more effectively leverage our role as a National Security Agency (NSA) certified Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance.”

“The courses in the option reflect the competencies that the NSA has identified as critical to being a center of academic excellence,” he said.

The MPS-IS Cybersecurity and Information Assurance option appeals to a significantly broader audience than just those involved in homeland security strategy and operations, Forster said. The program takes a multidimensional perspective on cyber domains that is defined by using a socio-technical approach to generate solutions to complex problems. The approach integrates the technical aspects of cybersecurity with the human or individual, organizational, and social influences.

The CIA option introduces human-centric analysis to what goes on outside the computer as it relates to many topics, Forster said. It also complements the IST option in Information Security and Forensics, which uses some of the courses from the program, but applies some of the skills and knowledge acquired to the homeland security environment.

“The knowledge and skills acquired in our program, such as identifying and mitigating the insider threat or using structured analytics to improve situational awareness, appeal to cybersecurity specialists working for Walmart or VISA, CIA analysts trying to better understand the ambiguities of the French economy, the Air Force captain conducting information operations against Iran, or the system’s analyst focused on ensuring information confidentiality, integrity, and accessibility for Highmark,” Forster said.

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Last Updated December 09, 2013