Fueling the cybersecurity pipeline

cybersecurity experts

Every October during National Cybersecurity Month, we think about ways to keep our personal and work electronic data safe. Especially now. According to the CSO Pandemic Impact Survey, 26% of security and IT leaders have seen an increase in the “volume, severity and/or scope of cyber-attacks” since mid-March as COVID-19 and remote work have heightened opportunities to exploit our data.

At UNC Charlotte’s College of Computing and Informatics (CCI), cybersecurity has been top of mind for more than 20 years, preparing new cybersecurity experts to meet the demands of a dynamic and far-reaching job market. Job growth projections in this field exceed 30 percent for the coming decade, with North Carolina positioned among the top five U.S. states for cybersecurity jobs, and Charlotte ranked the no. 6 best places for IT professionals.

Preparing for the future

With both an undergraduate concentration and an M.S. in Cybersecurity, UNC Charlotte offers unique opportunities to gain valuable experience in a number of ways: 

  • SmartHome Lab: As our homes become "smarter," they are more vulnerable to hacking. CCI’s SmartHome Lab allows researchers and students to explore ways to build and network home-based devices for optimal protection, this fall providing helpful Tips to Better Secure Your Devices
  • CyberCorps: For two decades, CCI has partnered with CyberCorps, a scholarship-for-service program funded by the National Science Foundation. After earning graduate degrees from UNC Charlotte, participating students begin cybersecurity careers with the U.S. government for a period equal to their scholarship. One of only three universities in North Carolina to offer CyberCorps scholarships, UNC Charlotte has 124 alumni--and several current students--who have launched careers with federal agencies in Washington, D.C., and beyond. 
  • Annual Cybersecurity Symposium: Earlier this month, CCI hosted its 21st annual Cybersecurity Symposium, the first to be offered virtually. It drew more than 900 cybersecurity professionals and students from around the globe--at least a third more than past years. According to co-organizer Heather Lipford, interim associate dean for research and computer science professor, the event “provided access to our outstanding program to the largest-ever number of participants“ to discuss threats and mitigation strategies with nationally sought-out speakers. One is Charlotte-based cybersecurity consultant Todd Inskeep, whose remarks about potential threats related to the upcoming election were picked up by local media. The symposium regularly provides excellent opportunities for our students to network with industry experts. 

This fall, we received news of an opportunity for CCI and the William States Lee College of Engineering to partner with Purdue University Northwest (PNW) to contribute further to teaching cybersecurity. Through a grant to PNW, UNC Charlotte will help develop an artificial intelligence-cybersecurity certification-based national training program for transitioning military and first responders. We’re proud to be able to participate in this project whose outcome contributes to a strong national cybersecurity presence.