Cybersecurity skills need boost in computer science degrees

University computer science courses are failing to make clear the need to develop skills in cybersecurity, leaving the UK with a shortage of experts

November 12, 2014

This is according to a paper published jointly last week by the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing and (ISC)2, the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium.

“Twenty years ago very few courses paid any significant attention to security, and the situation has started to change, albeit slowly,” says “Perspectives: Integrating Cybersecurity into Computer Science Curricula”.

This is despite “a growing voice from industry that cybersecurity knowledge should be core to the disciplines of computing and information technology”, meaning such skills should therefore be “a key element of the computing and computer science curriculum, particularly at the undergraduate level”.

Currently most institutions offer computer science courses in which there is one module or unit – approximately 5 per cent of the total credits – dedicated to cybersecurity in a three-year degree, the paper claims.

It also notes that graduates find it difficult to enter the cybersecurity industry because “the supervisory cost of placements is very high for companies to take on many graduates of any kind in cybersecurity roles”.

“Academia must look at its curricula and accreditation requirements,” said Liz Bacon, president of the Chartered Institute for IT, adding it was also incumbent on industry to accept more trainees and placement students.

She said that more sandwich placements needed to be made available, and that lecturers could not single-handedly boost interest in cybersecurity among students, and that “talks from external speakers” and “war stories” from industry were more likely to excite students.

“It is not enough to integrate technical cybersecurity subjects into computing degrees as cybersecurity is an increasingly a diverse discipline, requiring a mix of business savvy, soft skills and technical skills for varied roles,” added Adrian Davis, managing director (Europe, the Middle East and America) of (ISC)2.

Universities have a real opportunity to include and make explicit reference to cybersecurity topics within many degrees.”

In August, the first GCHQ-certified master’s courses were unveiled, with Edinburgh Napier University, Lancaster University, the University of Oxford and Royal Holloway, University of London, among those accredited.

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