UT-Austin offers cybersecurity certificate in response to governmental need

Ratnika Batra

In an age of online identity theft, surveillance camera hackers and malware, the US government needs cybersecurity professionals. UT-Austin has heard the call. 

To help solve this issue, UT is offering an information security certificate, called INFOSEC, that is funded by the National Science Foundation. The certificate is designed to give computer science students the tools to succeed as cybersecurity professionals. Students pursuing this certificate receive significant financial aid and in return must spend a period of time working for a government agency after graduation. 

This cybersecurity program was created in response to concern over security vulnerabilities. 

Even with the advantages of this certificate, not enough students are joining the ranks of cybersecurity professionals. The government is still struggling to keep up with the demand for information security officers, according to computer science senior lecturer William Young.

Cybersecurity threats lurk among everyday technology. Another computer science professor, Warren Hunt, said that he finds it disturbing that consumers must opt out of easily hackable features.

“When I go purchase a car, it has a built in modem; it has a GPS system," Hunt said. "It is constantly letting a third party know my location, but I don’t get to say whether I want it or not."

Hunt said he believes that industries are going to keep installing these features as long as they are profitable, regardless of the security issues they pose. Young also sees cybersecurity concerns as constant threats to the US.

“One could imagine some terrorist group with sophisticated cybersecurity knowledge attacking the electrical grid or the transportation system,” Young said.   

Young said the government recognizes these issues and is working to make digital technology more secure. 

“Terabytes of data are going out the door every day,” he said. 

Hunt said he believes that the shortage of cybersecurity workers may be happening because government jobs pay slightly less than industry positions.  

Additionally, cybersecurity is a highly specialized area and can be more time-intensive than other areas of computer science, according to Young.

UT students have diverse opinions on this issue. Computer science freshman Breanna Vargas said that government agencies offer opportunities that are not available in other computer science careers. 

Zhao Song, a computer science graduate student, said that many computer science jobs allow employees to work from home, but government jobs require workers to wear more than their pajamas. 

This certificate is designed to overcome student reluctance and strengthen the cohort of information security officials who are about to enter the workforce, according to the UT website. 

“The government is desperate to have more students in cyber security…and the University is not producing nearly that many,” Young said.