In our increasingly digital world of smart phones, laptops, online shopping, patient portals, server networks holding data, records and information of all makes and models, and apps for just about everything – the looming threat of cyberattacks are all too real.
That’s why computer science students at the College of Charleston will soon delve deeper into the world of malware, cyber threats and data breaches. Starting in fall 2018, the Department of Computer Science will require incoming computer science majors to take an advanced course on computer and network security as well as courses on database concepts and advanced algorithms. Students already enrolled as computer science majors will not be required to switch to the new curriculum.
Through its Cyber Security Club, under the leadership of club president Zach Dayton and computer science professor Xenia Mountrouidou, the College of Charleston is already the current reining Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition (PCDC) champions, and these curriculum changes will further improve students’ cybersecurity prowess.
“Cybersecurity is essential to just about anything related to computer science,” says Sebastian van Delden, computer science department chair and professor. “That’s a huge part of what computer science students will face in the workforce. Whether or not you specialize in cybersecurity, someone in your department is going to have to be doing that kind of work.”
Incoming computer information systems majors will also have new curriculum requirements starting in fall 2018. Those students will have to take an introductory course on cybersecurity as well as a joint capstone course with computer science and data science majors. The collaborative class offers students from the three disciplines real-world experience developing a digital product for companies such as Bosch, Mercedes-Benz Vans and Booz Allen Hamilton.
“This approach more closely emulates real-world agile development teams and better prepares our students to enter the workforce,” says van Delden.
The decision to incorporate cybersecurity courses as requirements in the two majors, rather than create a niche major of cybersecurity, was a targeted decision, says van Delden.
“We don’t want to pigeonhole our students into a very narrow area of computer science for the rest of their lives,” says van Delden, noting that the goal is to give students flexibility in their education to prepare them for a variety of careers within the field of computer science. “Every single industry, if you have any kind of electronics, you’ve got cybersecurity problems. Whether you’re working for Walmart doing data management protecting customer information or working for a security firm and trying to guard proprietary information, cybersecurity is essential for all businesses now to protect information.”