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New Computer Security Major Meets Needs of Changing World

By Gerianne Wright
June 2015

TJ Maxx, PlayStation Network, CardSystems Solutions, Target Stores, and, most recently, Anthem — are companies listed among worst data security breaches of the 21st century, according to online security- and risk-management news site  CSO Online.

While our personal data is ripe for the picking by experienced hackers — at a cost of billions to victims the world over — careers in computer security are equally plumb, from crime investigation to malware analysis, vulnerability research to information recovery. And with technology outpacing the workforce, students earning computer security degrees will find a bumper crop of opportunities upon graduation.

Security Problems ‘Almost Overwhelming’

“Every day, we hear in the news about various security breaches — the existing problems are almost overwhelming. There is a huge demand for professionals who know how to help with these problems,” said Dr. Jan Plaza, associate professor and chair of the Computer Science program. “Technology is advancing at a tremendous pace; as a society, we’re faced with new challenges.”

“Job prospects are excellent... there is a growing demand for specialization in computer security.”
– Dr. Delbert Hart

“Job prospects are excellent,” added Dr. Delbert Hart, associate professor of computer science. “Computers are everywhere and in everything. There is a growing demand for specialization in computer security.”

As a result, SUNY Plattsburgh is offering one of the only computer security majors among the SUNY comprehensive schools.

“Computer security is an integral part of so many things,” Hart said. “There’s the technical side, but then there’s also the social side. The new major will help students understand how all the components fit together.”

Major Offers ‘Deep, Broad Understanding’

Students majoring in computer security will be offered a deep, broad understanding of computer security through an overlap of the department’s three majors: computer science, informational technology, and computer security, Plaza said.

Russell Greaker, a junior from Wantagh, N.Y., is one of the first students to enroll in the computer security major. He came to SUNY Plattsburgh with interests in biology and chemistry , but after studying them for a year, he realized it wasn’t for him. “So I ended up thinking … what (did) I really enjoy?”

For Greaker, the answer was always staring him in the face.

“For most of my life, I was on the computer, whether I was gaming or on social websites like MySpace and Facebook,” he said. “A lot of the things we see today are all because of computing. For example, your cell phone … is a computer. The signs you see on the side of the road were made by a machine that uses a computer. That is what drew me in: You can make things ‘come to life’ with just some lines of characters.”

Timing of Major ‘Perfect’

Greaker spoke with friends who were computer science majors and liked what he heard. He learned the department was creating the new computer security major. In spring, Greaker switched majors to computer security with a minor in information technology.

On campus, Greaker works at the ResNet HelpDesk and when he’s home, he works at the New York Hospital of Queens as a desktop technician.

“I was working there as an intern the last two summers,” he said. Over winter break, he was hired as a senior desktop technician. After graduating, he hopes to continue working at the hospital and possibly earn a master’s degree in the subject.

The timing of the major couldn’t have been more perfect, Greaker said, calling his being accepted into computer security at the college “one of my proudest moments.”

For more information on the major, contact Plaza at (518) 564-2781 or  jan.plaza@plattsburgh.edu.

 

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