By Faith Oakes
Many University of Dallas students may be unaware that this school is home to one of the nation’s top cybersecurity programs.
Since 2003, both the National Security Agency (NSA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have recognized UD as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity. UD was noted for its program long before other schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, such as the University of Texas at Dallas or Southern Methodist University, even had such a course of study, much less national accreditation.
The Center for Cybersecurity is a multi-faceted program that offers a “4+1” course of study for undergraduates. This allows students to take graduate-level classes during their junior and senior years, and complete a master of science degree through the College of Business. Dr. Brett Landry, who is both director of the Center for Cybersecurity Education and the College of Business associate dean for academic affairs, is in charge of the program.
Accreditation, according to Landry, is important to the university. It is a prestigious accolade that prospective students look for when deciding on a program.
“It completely validates what we are trying to do here at UD, as our goal is to provide the best and most applicable study of cybersecurity that we possibly can,” Landry said.
The UD program is unique for many reasons, one of which is the focus on understanding more than just the math behind cryptography.
“Grasping the ‘why’ of deploying various encryption systems is probably more important to prospective employers than understanding the ‘what’ of the math, because [the math] is something almost everyone can do,” Landry explained.
The goal is to teach an understanding of the whole, which is why the program also focuses on good cyber hygiene, compliance and legal issues and the ethics of other digital exploits such as hacking. In the wake of recent scandals and attacks on major companies such as Sony and Target, as well as rising levels of cybercrime such as identity theft, cybersecurity education has gained precedence at many major universities nationwide.
Landry also emphasized the tradition of cybersecurity, something many UD students might not realize.
“Cryptology really goes back to Ancient Greece and the Spartans, which means that it belongs to the same time as many of the literary and philosophical elements studied in the Core,” Landry said.
He cited modern historical examples as well, such as Alan Turing, a World War II cryptanalyst who spent years intercepting and breaking Nazi messages, and Commander Joseph Rochefort, who “won the battle of Midway” by breaking the Japanese cipher code using repetition. Rochefort’s method is the same method used by hackers today. One of the most fascinating things about cryptology, according to Landry, is that it is an ancient and yet entirely modern discipline.
“There is perhaps no other field that is as perpetually applicable and constantly changing,” Landry said.
The program’s re-accreditation is based on the conversation between various agencies and universities about what a good cybersecurity education entails. Many professionals at the top of their respective fields consult and teach with UD’s cybersecurity program. This advisory board is constantly in contact with the university so that the program will always be tailored to the needs of the industry. If Landry has a question about a new issue or problem, he is able to simply call one of his contacts at the NSA and have a conversation about it.