Print
Technology

Hacking Cyberdefense Shortage

By Audrey Elsberry, posted Mar 15, 2024
Students at the University of North Carolina Wilmington study cybersecurity in the Center for Cyber Defense Education established in 2018. (Photo courtesy of UNCW)
University of North Carolina Wilmington developed a self-sustaining ecosystem among its computer science and business schools, said Ulku Clark, director of the school’s Center for Cyber Defense Education.

It started almost 20 years ago when Clark entered a group of students into a cyberdefense competition. The first year was a “learning experience,” she said, but the students were able to take home second place the following year in 2006. 

The cyberdefense club now has about 30 students attending its weekly meetings and regularly competes in competitions. The student organization provided momentum to UNCW’s cyberdefense program. A cybersecurity minor was later established, securing National Security Agency (NSA) and Center for Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (CAE) designations. 

A shortage of cybersecurity professionals influenced Clark and her team to slowly evolve UNCW’s offerings to now include eight cybersecurity programs for both undergraduate and graduate students. 

Regardless of their major, students have chosen to take the Introduction to Cybersecurity class, Clark said. The minor and bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity are the only programs that require students to take the class, which would fill about four sections, she said. Each semester, the university fills at least six sections. 

“And after they take that course,” Clark said, “they either add [cybersecurity] as a minor, some change their major.”

UNCW established the first cybersecurity bachelor’s degree in the state, said Ron Vetter, dean of UNCW’s College of Science and Engineering.

Clark and Vetter anticipated 120 students would graduate with a cybersecurity major over four years, with the first graduate receiving the degree last spring, four graduating last semester and the expectation of 60 students graduating this spring. The actual number of expected graduates with degrees in cybersecurity this spring is 165, Clark said. 

The cybersecurity major is a collaborative effort between the Cameron School of Business and the College of Science and Engineering, Vetter said. 

“It’s managerial, its policy, its risk management and it’s also technical,” Vetter said. “And I think for the students, getting both perspectives is going to make our program really strong.”

The shortage of cybersecurity professionals is a national security issue, Clark said. The national workforce status is about 600,000 open cyberdefense jobs – the shortage in North Carolina is about 25,000 open jobs, she said. 

Ten years ago, finding local professionals with cybersecurity experience was a challenge, and getting those with the necessary experience to move to Wilmington for a cybersecurity job was difficult, said Thomas Hill who currently serves as nCino’s chief information security officer.

Hill joined UNCW’s Cybersecurity Advisory Board and said he recommends additions to the university’s curriculum.

While he said nCino has an easier time finding qualified students to fill entry-level positions now, the shortage is still prevalent among senior-level jobs. Academic study is great, he said, but taking a couple of cybersecurity classes does not make a security expert.

“There’s more of a lack of experienced individuals in the marketplace that can fill those positions, but many organizations like my own have come to terms with that,” he said. “And instead of assuming that we’re not going to find anyone, we take entry-level folks and put them in roles where we know we can groom them to gain that experience over time.”

Now that companies across industries are adding artificial intelligence to their offerings as a marketing tactic, regardless of experience in technology or cyberdefense, it opens more opportunities for cybercrime for both the company and the customer, Hill said. 

Vetter and Clark are working to create graduate certificates. 

“Cybersecurity is something that, health care needs it, banking needs it, every industry needs it,” Hill said. 

Vetter and Robert Burrus, dean of the Cameron School of Business, agreed to create a 40,000-square-foot cyber center adjacent to Cameron Hall, where students can experience a cyberattack simulation environment. He expects the project to be completed in three years, he said.
Ico insights

INSIGHTS

SPONSORS' CONTENT
Untitleddesign2

The Importance of Real Estate Appraisals

Steve Mitchell - Cape Fear REALTORS®
Unknown 7112393341

Why Feasibility is Paramount to Success

Holly Segur - Lead Intuitively – Corporate Coaching
Jimheadshot

The Wilmington Construction Market: Trends, Recognition, and Challenges

Jim Hundley - Thomas Construction Group

Trending News

Passenger Rail Study Offers New Details About Proposed Wilmington To Raleigh Route

Emma Dill - Apr 22, 2024

Severe Weather Postpones Trump Rally In Wilmington

Emma Dill - Apr 20, 2024

Will NC Be CNBC's Three-time Top State For Business?

Audrey Elsberry - Apr 22, 2024

In The Current Issue

Taking Marine Science On The Road

“My mission and my goal is to take my love of marine science, marine ecosystem and coastal ecosystems and bring that to students and teacher...


Funding A Food Oasis: Long-awaited Grocery Store Gains Momentum

With millions in committed funding from New Hanover County and the New Hanover Community Endowment, along with a land donation from the city...


Bootstrapping A Remote Option

Michelle Penczak, who lives in Pender County, built her own solution with Squared Away, her company that now employs over 400 virtual assist...

Book On Business

The 2024 WilmingtonBiz: Book on Business is an annual publication showcasing the Wilmington region as a center of business.

Order Your Copy Today!


Galleries

Videos

2024 Power Breakfast: The Next Season