FORT KENT, Maine — With more Americans putting their lives online using everything from automated banking to social networking come increased opportunities for cybercriminals.
In response to that reality, the University of Maine at Fort Kent this year has rolled out a new two-year associate of science degree program preparing students for careers in information security.
“I can safely say there is a need for these computer skills at every conceivable level from plain citizens to the deepest, darkest realm of the CIA or FBI,” Raymond Albert, UMFK professor of computer sciences, said last week.
While serving as a feeder program for the university’s existing four-year computer science degree, the new associate program also will give students the skills they need to find employment after graduation, Albert said.
“When our society moved to become an information society, it really started things rolling, and now we are more information-oriented,” he said. “Unfortunately, this allows nefarious types to conduct their illegal affairs online.”
Albert likens the era of Internet crimes to the days of this country’s Wild West.
“We are constantly playing catch-up, and the laws can’t keep up,” he said. “But there is a sun on the horizon, [and] we are now seeing the number of computer security updates slowing over time, meaning the need for them is decreasing.”
Albert predicts that once computer and Internet security measures become more powerful and more difficult to breach, criminals will look elsewhere.
In the meantime, large companies such as Hannaford, which experienced a massive security breach last year, are on the lookout for well-trained individuals to fill information security positions.
“There are literally thousands of these positions that go unfilled,” Albert said. “In Maryland $575 million was put into the state’s budget to help train people for unfilled information security positions.”
In a move to raise interest and awareness of the importance of security information, the University of Maine System is inviting high school students from around the state to enter the 2011 Maine Cyber Defense Competition with qualifying rounds set to begin next March.
The competition was developed by UMS faculty and brings teams of high school students together and provides them access to information security resources based in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Albert hopes events such as the competition help raise awareness of the importance of information security in general and in UMFK’s new program.
“This is the first fall term for the program,” Albert said. “We will be actively recruiting and expect to see that reflected in the enrollment numbers next fall.”