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First Online Degree in Legal Studies with Cybersecurity, Data Privacy Concentration to Launch in 2017

The idea is to help students of the program understand what legal liability they have in cybersecurity and data privacy, which standards they should hold their companies to, and how they can pre-emptively deal with potential problems ahead of time.

by Tanya Roscorla / August 5, 2016

As cybersecurity attacks continue to bring down organizations, Albany Law School is planning to prepare students for the legal aspects of the cybersecurity war.

In January 2017, the law school plans to put together an initial cohort of students for what it says is the first online master of science in legal studies with a concentration in cybersecurity and data privacy. A year and a half ago, Antony Haynes left the corporate litigation world to join Albany Law School, where he was hired as an assistant professor and the associate dean for strategic initiatives and information systems so he could build out this new concentration. 

Previously, Haynes taught computer science at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he created a program to train cadets how to defend against cyberattacks. While that training addressed the problem from a technical perspective, this training at Albany Law School focuses on the policy and legal issues that lawyers and other types of workers will face. The idea is to help them understand what legal liability they have in cybersecurity and data privacy, which standards they should hold their companies to, and how they can pre-emptively deal with potential problems ahead of time, Haynes said.

For example, an organization may have firewalls and technology intrusion standards. But what is the standard of liability when that firewall is misconfigured? What is considered a reasonable cybersecurity practice? How much security is enough? Those are legal questions that students who go through this program will be able to answer, Haynes said. And it has real-life application as companies including Target are paying millions of dollars for failing to secure their systems to avoid a data breach. 

"As a society, we have to very rapidly figure out what the standards of liability are going to be," Haynes said. 

In addition to the courses developed at Albany Law School, a partnership with University of Albany SUNY will allow law students to take elective courses in these areas. The partnership benefits both parties because a nationally ranked law school will be affiliated with a public university that offers a wide range of courses and degrees.

Students who sign up for this concentration will be able to take two online classes each semester over two years as their schedule permits or spend a full year completing the 30-credit program. By providing flexible courses, the law school would like to reach working adults who want to help their organization with legal compliance and prevent legal compliance issues. Others who want to change careers will be able to learn more about a topic that won't go away anytime soon.

"This gives you a credential to get into the door of a company and establish an area of expertise that will give you a sense of job security for years to come," Haynes said. 

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