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Masters course to create army of cyber security experts combating online threat

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Published on 04 April 2017

Online threat
Online threat

Our new MSc Cyber Security programme will equip the next generation of cyber security experts with the skills to combat the increasing threat of online crime and cyber crime incidents.

Cyber crime is now a top priority for the UK Government with the opening of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) last month, part of intelligence agency GCHQ, to identify threats to individuals and organisations. It’s been reported just in the last three months there were 188 cyber attacks against the nation.

In response to demand, Sunderland is recruiting 25 students to its new MSc Cyber Security programme from September 2017, drawing on its innovation, research and expertise in this area.

"The threat has never been greater, as a nation we are defending attacks from everywhere, it’s a cyber war of pandemic proportions and is never going to stop, no matter how much we defend and prepare it’s always going to be there..."

Last year the University was unveiled as one of eight UK Higher Education providers awarded a Development Fund grant (£29,000) by the Department for Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) to utilise Problem Based Learning (PBL) in cyber security. Most recently the Faculty of Computer Science began working on a project with the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU) – a collaboration between the three police forces of Northumbria, Cleveland and Durham tackling serious and organised crime – to evaluate a cyber threat sharing platform in the North East. The research will feed back to the Cyber-security Information Sharing Partnership (CiSP), led by NCSC.

Professor Alastair Irons, Academic Dean of Computer Science and Development Fund Project lead for the University of Sunderland, said: “There is a huge demand for cyber security graduates and we believe our MSc will help address that skills gap. The course has been designed in collaboration with various security agencies, with heavy input from major technology employers including: Accenture, SAGE, PWC and Net-Defence.”

 He added: “The threat has never been greater, as a nation we are defending attacks from everywhere, it’s a cyber war of pandemic proportions and is never going to stop, no matter how much we defend and prepare it’s always going to be there. Whether it’s nation-state attacks, the hacking of large corporations or an individual’s credit card becoming compromised, no one is immune from becoming a victim.

“We have designed our programmes to prepare an army of cyber security experts as technology develops.”

Cyber security is now embedded into the University Undergraduate Computer Sciences Programmes.

Professor Irons added: “All the work we are undertaking from our problem-based learning teaching resources, student-led workshops, staff development events and conferences will provide a set of resources and more highly skilled graduates who will be able to address the cyber security challenges in society.

“We are working closely with government agencies, businesses and industry to address the skills gap and build the region as a cyber centre, with Sunderland at the core, information we will be able to feed back to the new National Cyber Security Centre.”

Detective Sergeant Martin Wilson is the regional Cyber Protect Co-ordinator for the North East Region, commented: “Technology is a force for good and is changing the way we live our lives. However, there are elements in our society who seek to take advantage of our growing use of the internet and exploit vulnerabilities’ in networks and end point users. The motivations for cyber criminals are numerous and varied, but predominately it’s about making money, by holding data to ransom, and making extortion demands.

“Multiagency partnership working has always been vital in the fight against crime and the same holds true in digital policing. NERSOU works with many public and private sector companies to raise awareness and have fewer victims of cybercrime. Cyber threat sharing is absolutely key in mitigating cyber-attacks. The majority of threat intelligence sharing with business takes place on the NCSC’s CiSP platform. NERSOU are working with Professor Irons in understanding how we can better share threat intelligence on the CiSP, with the wider business community. This is valuable and important work, which will help us improve cyber threat sharing, and increase cyber resilience.”

Professor Alastair Irons has research interests in the field of digital forensics, cybercrime and cyber security. He also focuses on student assessment and feedback, and has published books on feedback, learning, and teaching issues in computing. Alastair is currently Chair of the BCS Academic Accreditation Committee, serves on the BCS Academy Board and is Chair of the BCS Cybercrime Forensics Special Interest Group. Alastair is currently on the boards of DYNAMO and the North East Fraud Forum. Since 2013 Alastair has been a visiting scholar at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

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