Today@Sam Article

Meeting Workforce Needs In Cyber Forensics

Aug. 6, 2018
SHSU Media Contact: Wes Hamilton

Cyber security1000

In 2018 it is hard to imagine a single day passing without using the digital world to your advantage; we are connected to the online world in both our business and personal lives. Beginning this fall, Sam Houston State’s newest PhD program in Digital and Cyber Forensic Science is aiming to meet the world’s never-ending need for electronic security.

With career opportunities in business and industry, federal and state security agencies and academia, Peter Cooper, professor and department chair of the Department of Computer Science, says the new program will help SHSU continue its legacy of meeting workforce demands.  

“The need for professionals in cyber-security and digital forensics far outweighs the supply,” said Cooper. “The supply is also often foreign nationals who come to the United States to get a top-quality education, and then return to their own country. I see this program as very much targeting Texans first and US citizens second. Obviously, we are going to receive quality applications from all over the world, but in general, we are trying to grow this expertise for the benefit of the state of Texas and for the benefit of the United States.”

More than 80 percent of students in the program’s first cohort are from the United States. The goal is to place eventual graduates across many different fields of professions, because as Cooper added, you would be hard pressed to find an industry in 2018 that does not have online activity.

“Virtually every organization has an electronic presence now,” said Cooper. “There is marketing through email, social media and running electronic point of sales, not to mention a workforce that has countless machines such as desktops, laptops, phones and tablets. Each of those devices is connected to a network and they all contain data that has a need to be secured corporately.”

The program is designed for students with a bachelor’s degree in Computing Science, Computer Engineering or Digital Forensics and provides the necessary skills to understand the role of digital and cyber forensic science in today’s world. A program more than 12 years in the making, these students are forging in to new territory in the field of computer science.

“As far as we know this program is unique,” said Cooper. “There are computer science doctoral programs where you can have a concentration in a related field of cyber security or digital forensics. However, a concentration is just 12 hours of courses. Our program is entirely dedicated to the field.”

Students seeking their PhD in Digital and Cyber Forensic Science must complete 85 credit hours beyond their bachelor’s degree. For advancement to candidacy, you must be enrolled full-time, maintain a 3.0 grade point average, complete 46 graduate credit hours of coursework and an internship, submit a portfolio for review and pass comprehensive examinations. Students who advance to doctoral candidacy must complete and defend a doctoral dissertation, and a minimum of 15 credit hours of dissertation with continuous enrollment in the dissertation course until graduation are required.

Orientation for these new doctoral students is Aug. 21. The goal of this first meeting is to have the faculty and students sit down and discuss research topics in order to find common interests.

One particular passion hoping to be researched comes from, Khaled Rabieh, assistant professor in Computer Science. Rabieh is interested in protecting cities from system failures and making them smarter, such as the city of Houston, whose infrastructures can become particularly vulnerable natural disasters.

“When you have an event like Hurricane Harvey, you can have cascading infrastructure failures,” said Cooper. “Doctor Rabieh’s interest is in the security of those systems and creating smart cities to help prevent total collapses.”

Cooper and the faculty are eagerly anticipating their first cohort of students this fall, similar to new parents awaiting the birth of their first child. 

“This new degree program carries with it that same set of emotions as a child of mine would,” said Cooper. “The excitement, the expectation and the sheer joy of having achieved this, together with all of the apprehension and concern. Is this going to work? How can I make sure everything is going smoothly? What type of parent will I be? It is a great and wonderful feeling. The next four years are probably going to be the most exciting in my time at SHSU as we build this group. It is terribly exciting and I am looking forward to what should be an explosion of research with this program.”

Cooper also wished to mention his gratitude towards all those who helped get this program off the ground.

“There are countless people on this campus who went to bat for this program in ways that never cease to amaze me. Not to mention my 17 faculty. It is not me that has done all the hard work, my faculty have been behind this program from day one and we are super excited.”

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