College adds cyber safety course

Alyssa Pressler
  • York College has added a new cybersecurity management major.
  • The area of study is particularly important in today's world.
  • The major is available now for students to select.

In a world of Russian hackers, credit-card theft and other online scams, cybersecurity has never been a more relevant topic.

That's why James Norrie, dean of York College's Graham School of Business, created a new cybersecurity management major for the campus. Norrie has a background in cybersecurity, and its the subject he typically teaches on campus. He found the college already had the necessary courses in place to support the new major, making it an easy addition.

James Norrie, Dean of the Graham School of Business at York College.

Aside from the major being a very important field globally, Norrie said, there's a lot of demand for people with backgrounds in cybersecurity management.

"You can't graduate enough talent in cybersecurity right now," he said.

Students who major in cybersecurity management will receive an interdisciplinary education, taking classes in varied subjects, according to Norrie. The major requires courses in technology but also in sciences such as sociology, criminology, psychology, intelligence analysis and law.

The subject matter helps graduates understand varied issues, such as criminals who steal companies' digital information, why an employee might click on an unsafe attachment and the legal rights citizens have digitally, which are integral to effective cybersecurity.

"Cybersecurity is quickly changing from something which really only treated the problem as a technology problem," Norrie explained.

This is a common misconception when it comes to cybersecurity, Norrie said. Many people hear the name and think the area of study is hyper-technical, but technology is only about one third of what is studied.

Although a company might believe its cyber information is well-protected, a phishing email or a disgruntled employee looking to sell a company's information could be damaging.

Cybersecurity issues can affect any organization or business. That has been illuminated recently with the report that Russian hackers were involved in the presidential election, the scope of which is still being explored. Another common example of a cybersecurity issue is the vulnerability of large retailers whose customer information can be compromised, Norrie said.

James Norrie, center, speaks with two students as the Dean of the Graham School of Business at York College.

A lot of people also receive phishing emails as threats to their cybersecurity. If you've ever received an email from someone you know saying they're trapped in a foreign country and need money or from a stranger asking you to help meet a fundraising goal, it's probably a phishing scam. These scammers find information linked to you and use it to create trust and gather more information, such as passwords, financial information and more, according to Norrie.

This is not an issue that's going away anytime soon, according to Patty Stirk, a York College alumna, IT executive and an adviser to the business college. As someone who works in the information technology business, she recognizes the merits of the new major.

"Security is one of the biggest threats facing any business or organization nowadays," she said. "In order for the school of business to be preparing students that our community needs, this major is what we need."

Students at York College can enroll in the major if they seek to switch from their current area of study, Norrie said. Incoming students have already chosen their majors but will be made aware that cybersecurity management is an option. The big push for the new major will come with the incoming class in fall 2018.

Norrie is hoping cybersecurity management will be  popular among students. There's no shortage of positions and job security in this field, Norrie said.

It's a critical field, he added.

"This really makes a difference," Norrie said. "This keeps the nation safe, it keeps companies safe, it keeps people from losing money."