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Jiannan Wang (left, Director of Professional Master’s Program in Computer Science), Uwe Glasser (second from right, cybersecurity stream lead) and Mohammad Tayebi (right, cybersecurity researcher), with students, are ready to welcome the first cohort of cybersecurity students in Fall 2020.

SFU to train next generation of cybersecurity specialists

March 06, 2020
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By Kathrin Knorr

Cybercrime damages are expected to rise to $6 trillion annually by next year, when 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions across the globe are expected. SFU’s School of Computing Science is gearing up to address this severe talent shortage in the cybersecurity field by launching a new cybersecurity specialization as part of the Professional Master's Program in Computer Science. The first cohort will begin classes in September 2020, and applications are being accepted until April 1, 2020.

Cybersecurity refers to the practice of protecting hardware, software and data from digital attacks.

"Decisive action is needed now," says SFU computing science professor Uwe Glässer, who leads the new stream. "Increasingly, organizations are seeking to place cybersecurity at the heart of their operations and governance, but in today's rapidly evolving threat landscape, they are struggling to find enough talent to meet their cybersecurity needs."

The field has had a zero percent unemployment rate for several years, and the demand for cybersecurity professionals is not slowing down.

Building on five years of experience running the Professional Master’s Program specializing in big data and, more recently, visual computing, the School of Computing Science is well positioned to offer a cybersecurity specialization to help mitigate the widening talent gap in the job market.

"In consultation with global leaders in the cybersecurity market, including Fortinet and Palo Alto Networks, we have developed a leading-edge curriculum with a strong applied orientation, emphasizing hands-on training over academic research to meet industry and government needs," says Glässer.

In the span of 16 to 20 months, the program educates students in a broad range of topics, such as cyber ethics, cloud and network security, ethical hacking, secure coding and applied cryptography. Almost half of the curriculum consists of lab work where students study simulated attacks in a variety of environments to learn to detect, prevent and combat cyber crime.

Students are also required to complete a co-op term, where they will have multiple options. For example, Mastercard has recently announced plans to open a new half-billion-dollar cybersecurity and tech innovation centre in Vancouver which will create 270 new jobs and 100 co-op positions.

"Our tried and true program model offers a unique blend of foundational theory and intensive hands-on training using professional equipment such as top-of-the-line firewalls and virtual machine environments for penetration testing," says computing science professor Jiannan Wang, director of the Professional Master's Program in Computer Science.

"After co-op training at our partner organizations in the private and public sectors, graduates from this program will differentiate themselves through their knowledge and skills in a job market that offers exceptional opportunities across North America and beyond.”

The cybersecurity specialization is ideal for those who have an undergraduate degree in computer science or a related field, and have programming experience and knowledge of advanced math and statistics. The specialization prepares students to work in positions such as cybersecurity engineer, cybersecurity analyst, cybersecurity consultant, vulnerability analyst, network architect and many others.

For more information on the cybersecurity specialization, please visit www.sfu.ca/computing/cybersecurity.