​Augusta University announces unique 'cybersecurity engineering' degree

The Georgia university says it's the first higher education institution in the country to offer a cybersecurity specialization focused on hardware.

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Augusta University plans to offer three cybersecurity undergraduate programs, putting it in a small but growing group of schools to offer such specializations.

The new programs include bachelors of science in cybersecurity, cybersecurity engineering and cyber-operations. According to the public university, the engineering major is the first to be offered by a higher education institution, and one of just a handful of such training programs offered throughout the U.S. The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved the programs Tuesday.

The unique major emphasizes the importance of cybersecurity principles not only in software, but hardware design and construction.

Alex Schwarzmann, dean of the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences, the school offering the new programs, said in a press statement that only focusing on software can bestow a false sense of security.

“We need rigorous approaches to securing both software and hardware dimensions of systems," Schwarzmann said. "Our adversaries can use computer chips and other hardware components to compromise systems even if the software itself is secure."

A recent Bloomberg report explained how Amazon uncovered the presence of microchips just larger than grains of rice, installed by Chinese subcontractors, on Super Micro Computer server motherboards that allowed attackers a secret backdoor into any attached network. Among Super Micro Computer's customers were the Department of Defense, the CIA and the Navy.

Gretchen Caughman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said in a press statement that the new undergraduate offerings are a response to rising demand for cybersecurity education. A regional workforce study published this summer found the number of cybersecurity and IT-related positions had risen 16 percent in the past year. The School of Computer and Cyber Sciences itself reports that it will hire 20 new faculty members in the next several years to meet to meet growing demand.

There is also heightened demand for cybersecurity professionals globally — the Center for Cyber Safety and Education projected last year that there would be 1.8 million vacant cybersecurity positions by 2022.

The university says its new programs, which launch in the fall 2019 semester, meet NSA and Department of Homeland Security specifications for cyberdefense education. Those and other security agencies have a growing interest in ensuring a strong cybersecurity workforce, particularly in the face of mounting cyberthreats abroad.

Several other universities offer cybersecurity programs — which go beyond traditional computer science coursework focused on general computing concepts and programming to include emphasis on network protection, common cyberattacks and tools — including the University of Arizona, Utica College in New York, and George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Last month, the University of Virginia's School of Engineering announced plans to launch a graduate program to focus on cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things, one of a select few programs focusing on hardware security.

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Education IT News, Computer Science, Higher Education, cybersecurity

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