NSights Blog

Cybersecurity efforts focus on training next-gen leaders to solve threats of tomorrow

University at the forefront of helping state of Nevada train cybersecurity's future leaders, prepare for 21st century threats

Cybersecurity has enormous implications for economic development in Nevada, including industries such as banking, healthcare, data centers, and online gaming, all of which are increasingly important components of Nevada's economy. Cybersecurity also has important implications for our power grid as well as for the large and growing military presence in Nevada. Meanwhile, recent studies have shown that the average frequency of cyber attacks is as high as one every three seconds.

Yet, there is significant shortage of cybersecurity professionals who can understand and effectively combat these threats. A secure cyberspace encompasses technological as well as social and behavioral aspects. Cybersecurity requires understanding human psychology, effective policies, legal systems, business perspectives, and risk management and analysis. The strong impact and ubiquity of computing and the Internet has revolutionized certain types of crime. Digital evidence is a common element of criminal investigations of terrorism, gang violence, drug trafficking, corporate and financial crime, and more. It is critical that we understand how the Internet as a technology enables and leaves traces of these crimes. However, each of these crimes has a real victim, and so it is as important that we understand the Internet as an interactive communication medium. For example, children are easily subjected to cyber-bullying from peers; these represent a serious and growing concern of parents, teachers, policy makers, and scholars alike, and there is no technological solution. Additional research is necessary to understand whether and how the Internet's relative anonymity to users facilitates such aggression, how frequent it is, and how it might be prevented.  

Since 2014, the University's Cybersecurity Center (https://www.unr.edu/cybersecurity) has worked to create a nexus of academic and industry expertise through multidisciplinary collaboration with more than 10 fulltime and adjunct faculty members across the university and partners in Reno local companies and those from the Bay Area. The faculty members are working subject matter experts in interdisciplinary areas of cybersecurity. We focus on program development, especially as teaching and research have strong public and private interest and support.  

In 2016, the University approved a Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity (https://www.unr.edu/cybersecurity/education/graduate-certificate) that was proposed by the four departments collaborating in the development of the cybersecurity graduate programs. This certificate will train the next-generation cybersecurity workforce and equip them with knowledge of the technical, political, social and human factors needed to understand the mission-critical objectives of cybersecurity. The certificate uses an interdisciplinary approach to provide students essential knowledge to address evolving cybersecurity challenges. Through four interdisciplinary courses, students learn to identify cybersecurity risks and to work in teams to develop appropriate protection and response options. This interdisciplinary perspective enables students to not only use existing techniques to solve cybersecurity threats but also to develop new approaches.

Ming Li headshot