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Cybersecurity Program Draws Interest at Millikin University

A few years after its launch, an interdisciplinary cybersecurity program at Millikin University is gaining popularity as employers increasingly seek qualified cybersecurity professionals to protect their assets.

by Valerie Wells, Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill. / March 3, 2021

(TNS) — One of the biggest risks you take when using your computer is passwords that aren't secure enough.

"I think one unique thing about going into cybersecurity or information systems is that it's needed everywhere, from hospitals to insurance companies," said Millikin University senior Brandon Kane of Forsyth.

Millikin University has created an interdisciplinary cybersecurity program to meet the ever-increasing need of employers to keep their data out of the wrong hands.

Kane warns against using the same password for multiple sites, which makes it easier for a hacker to get hold of it. Don't create one that uses your name in any way, and while it should be obvious, don't use the word "password," either. He has a program that generates random and secure passwords for his own use, and another program that keeps track of them so he doesn't have to. Don't put them on sticky notes stuck to your computer, and if you have to write them down to remember them, keep it in a very, very safe place. Better yet, don't write them down at all.

The cybersecurity program started a few years ago, but has grown due to demand.

"Students can get a deep set of technical skills in information technology, a small set of core business classes as well as courses in ethics and criminal justice," said R.J. Podeschi, chair and associate professor of information systems in Millikin's Tabor School of Business.

Between remote learning and people working from home, the ability of business to control what happens to data is eroding.

"One of the topics in cybersecurity that has come up recently is 'death of the perimeter,' because companies used to be able to keep everyone within their own walls," Podeschi said. "Now with everyone working remotely and bringing devices to work, it's creating more challenges and making it more difficult for IT professionals to secure systems than it used to be."

And while students who come into the program don't need an exhaustive knowledge of computer technology, because Millikin can teach them that, they do need an active curiosity and attention to detail, and a little bit of a detective instinct that makes them want to follow clues and solve problems, he said.

"Threats can come from inside or outside an organization," Podeschi said. "Believe it or not, employees can actually pose the biggest threat, not because they're malicious, but often because they're not well-educated in how to safeguard company data or systems."

More threats are also coming from international entities, he said. And the problem isn't just viruses. It's also people deliberating trying to hack into accounts to steal personal information or company data.

"That's why these jobs are in such high demand," he said. "The overall information technology professionals have an unemployment rate that's, on average, half the national rate. Cybersecurity unemployment rate is less than that. Most employers now are taking at least six months to find qualified cybersecurity professionals, even for entry-level jobs."

Under restrictions imposed during the pandemic, students can't do a lot of performance-learning projects in the community, so they're doing them on campus. At present, they're engaged in doing a campus internet security project, reminding the Millikin community of Internet safety guidelines.

"We're just reminding students and faculty how they can be more secure with different technologies and their data," said Sydney Rudny, a senior from Orland Park.

Even for college students, who have always used technology and are comfortable with it, technology also changes constantly, she said.

"There's a lot of things that even I didn't know before I came in here, about how you can protect your data on your phone and web browsing and things like that, that I would have never thought of before I came here that can affect your everyday life," she said.

(c)2021 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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