Zayed UniversityHow dedicated teaching will help tackle the growing threat of cybercrime

How dedicated teaching will help tackle the growing threat of cybercrime

As cybersecurity becomes increasingly important‭, ‬institutions must develop sophisticated defence measures‭. ‬Zayed University’s latest programme enables faculty to provide essential knowledge

When Zayed University’s cybersecurity course opened in 2007‭, ‬it was‭ ‬the first of its kind in the United Arab Emirates‭ (‬UAE‭). ‬Working‭ ‬in partnership with George Washington University‭, ‬Zayed University had been approached‭ ‬by Abu Dhabi’s police force about designing a training programme that would prepare its officers to tackle cybercrime‭.‬

Once the initial cohort of officers graduated‭, ‬the programme was offered more widely‭, ‬with‭ ‬more than 250‭ ‬students having graduated from both the Abu Dhabi and Dubai campuses‭. ‬Fifty students are presently taking the programme‭ ‬at undergraduate and postgraduate levels‭. ‬Most‭, ‬if not all‭, ‬in the master’s programme have‭ ‬a background in IT or computer science‭. ‬Many are employed in the police force‭, ‬armed forces or Ministry of Interior‭, ‬and are studying‭ ‬in order to unlock managerial positions and improved salaries‭. ‬

Dr Hany El Kadi‭, ‬dean and professor at the College of Technological Innovation at Zayed University‭, ‬describes a hands-on learning environment that focuses on practical skills‭. ‬The curriculum‭ ‬is designed with graduate employability in mind‭, ‬covering subjects such as cyber forensics‭, ‬penetration testing‭, ‬information security and management‭.‬

“I think what really makes our programme distinct from all the others in the area is that it is highly practical‭,‬”‭ ‬El Kadi says‭. ‬“We have lots of people who are hands-on with the equipment‭, ‬which makes it interesting to people and makes them more employable‭ ‬once they graduate because of what they have learned during their studies‭. ‬Some of our graduates work in companies in the UAE area‭, ‬as supervisors or heads of organised crime task forces at different authorities‭. ‬We are really pleased with the relations we‭ ‬have had with the police and the armed forces‭.‬”

Zayed University’s cyber forensics research lab offers a variety of tools for researchers and postgraduate students‭. ‬“You allow the students to hack different devices‭, ‬then learn how to detect problems and solve them‭,‬”‭ ‬El Kadi says‭. ‬“Our senior students and professors will infect machines and the students will have to try to find out how to disinfect the machine‭.‬”

These devices are not restricted‭ ‬to laptops‭, ‬smartphones and tablets‭. ‬The internet of things makes all manner of objects vulnerable to‭ ‬a cyberattack‭. ‬Drones‭, ‬recording devices and even children’s toys can be at risk‭. ‬“The course shows people how vulnerable they could be with something as simple as a doll that kids play with‭,‬”‭ ‬El Kadi says‭. ‬“It is‭ ‬an interesting lab‭, ‬and we have different types of equipment to detect those attacks‭.‬”

Zayed University’s cybersecurity programme attracts faculty members from across the globe‭. ‬El Kadi says the programme hires‭ ‬10‭ ‬faculty members each year‭, ‬with the expectation that they will remain active in research alongside teaching‭. ‬“It is not enough just‭ ‬to teach in the undergraduate programme‭, ‬but it is also important for them to publish research in this area‭,‬”‭ ‬El Kadi says‭. ‬With the threat posed by cyberattacks growing and evolving‭, ‬research is vital to building a strong line of defence‭.‬

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