Page 36 - BusinessWest October 13, 2021
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Continued from page 34
“It’s not a repetitive type of field. There may
be a framework to adhere to, but as technol-
ogy advances, so does the work that needs to be done. Our world is becoming more connected and interconnected, and data is everything. Think about the gadgets in our homes — even washing machines, dryers, and stoves are connected to the internet. We need people to understand how to keep that data safe.”
For that reason, Benson went on, “cyberse- curity touches everyone, whether it’s healthcare, financial services, food service, the travel industry, the Department of Defense, you name it. We’re
a very interconnected world, and we’re able to
do things faster because of data — so we need to protect that data, whether it’s at rest, in transit, or in use.”
Defending Data
Levine listed a number of ways the cybersecu- rity research — and classwork — at UMass affects real people.
“One professor looks at ensuring that people have censorship-free access to information on the internet, which can be very important if you’re
a dissident in a country that has censored or fil- tered it,” he said. “Another professor works with differential privacy, and his technology is being used by the U.S. Census.”
That term refers to technology that allows
the government, corporations, or anyone else to release statistical information while not exposing people’s individual data.
“One problem with studies that collect infor-
mation about you and release it later is the pos- sibility that someone’s personal details can be inferred by looking at the data set,” Levine said, noting that differential-privacy measures ‘fuzz’ the information so the statistics are accurate, but don’t reveal information about any one person.
“We have courses on what some people call ‘ethical hacking’ — how to analyze a computer for its vulnerabilities and learn to defend those vulnerabilities. It’s teach-
ing students to be white hats,” he explained, add- ing that other classes delve into reverse- engineering security, digital forensics, ethics and law, and securing distributed systems — which, these days, means cryptocurrency.
“Cryptocurrencies are
one of the hardest chal-
lenges — no one is in
charge, and people are
exchanging things of value,” Levine said, adding that, whatever the topic, UMass brings in experts with practical experience in the field to teach stu- dents. “We don’t want everything taught from an ivory-tower point of view. And we want to teach techniques that will survive past graduation in
a quickly evolving field. It’s not just computer science.”
At the American Women’s College, Benson said the average age of a cybersecurity student
is 35, many no doubt drawn by the expansive opportunities in the field. “We have career chang- ers, we have people in IT fields who are looking
to specialize, and some are new to it, looking to learn more about cybersecurity and join the workforce.”
She’s also gratified that the program is making a small dent in what is currently a male-domi- nated workforce, to the tune of 80%. Part of the pitch, she said, is the reality that work in this field is wildly varied.
“We have the opportunity to demystify cyber-
“It’s not a repetitive type of field. There may be a framework to adhere to, but as technology advances, so does the work that needs to be done. Our world is becoming more connected and
interconnected, and data is everything.
security,” she said. “I explain to our women that cybersecurity is more than someone being in a basement coding. Part of cybersecurity is things like risk management, which can be a more con- sultative approach, helping someone understand assets, risks, and how to protect against vulner- abilities. Those are not technical skills; those are essential business skills.”
Smith agreed. “This hits on financial services, healthcare, government, you name it. Every industry has been
affected in one
  way or another by cybersecurity.”
Continued on page 50
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