How Pace University is Building the Next Generation of Cyber Security Analysts

Posted: 24th September 2014

Editor’s Note

Cyber threat intelligence is a young area of security. Relatively few universities offer formalized instruction to prepare analysts for this specific problem set, and these curriculums are rapidly evolving.

Yet, the demand for analysts with these skills is growing and organizations are facing serious hiring and retention challenges. Therefore, it’s critical for those starting in or transitioning into this career to know how and where to get the right foundation and skill sets. Professor Darren Hayes’ post below very nicely summarizes the key skills a good analyst must have or develop.

Be Proactive

According to the Senate Select Committee, in the months leading up to the September 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, the intelligence community produced hundreds of reports indicating militias and terrorist groups had the capabilities and intent to strike US and Western facilities and personnel in Libya. The reports submitted by the Defense Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon and other well-recognized authorities, which employ highly competent analysts, were largely ignored by key decision-makers. There are numerous other examples where leaders failed to act upon known threats — Home Depot being one of the more notable recent cases.

Analysts are only as valuable as the actions taken by their audience.

There are thousands of authoritative, lucid, and erudite analysts who are limited by the inaction of their intended audience and therefore, if you want to make an impact as an analyst, then seek out a proactive decision-maker.

Earn Proper Certification

At Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems, students pursuing a career in cyber security or computer forensics are strongly encouraged to successfully complete certifications in addition to graduating with a degree. A professional certification demonstrates to a potential employer they have gained mastery in a particular field of study or are competent with a professional tool.

Sharpen Your Skills

Students in computer forensics courses at Pace are taught a number of technology skills but are also taught investigative and critical thinking techniques. This is imperative to producing the best cyber security analysts. Students are taught to understand different types of crimes and profile these criminal actors. Without this knowledge, they’ll be at a disadvantage.

For example, when investigating payment card fraud, a good computer forensics investigator will not only need to know about imaging a hard drive or downloading skimmed card data from a printed circuit board, but will need to understand where the equipment for payment card schemes is purchased and how to find the evidence relevant to the investigation on a computer that contains hundreds of thousands of files. Pace students are strongly encouraged to attend presentations by lawyers, investigators from the public and private sectors, human intelligence experts, prosecutors, vendors, security experts and many other industry professionals to become well-rounded graduates.

Develop an International Perspective

Instilling an international perspective is also vital because crime knows no borders. Students focusing on cyber security should understand the role of the United States globally so they can better comprehend intelligence gathered on jihadist groups, mobile communications used by terrorist groups, politically-motivated cyber attacks, financially-motivated attacks, and industrial espionage. Understanding these groups provides greater insight into identifying the source of the threat and perhaps recognizing the malware used by a certain group.

Participate in Relevant Research Projects

Students at Pace are given semester research projects that focus on real issues that need to be solved by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Initially these projects can be somewhat frustrating given we are embarking into unknown territory with loose parameters. However, when the students realize they’ve made discoveries nobody else has found and their work can be a solution that impacts an agency, they feel a great sense of accomplishment and wish other projects at universities had the same meaning. These research projects are truly resume-building experiences.

Providing these agencies with solutions also opens up other doors to grant funding and internship opportunities. I believe the primary reason employers select Pace students over other universities is not just they are well-rounded educationally but our students have experience with professional tools, and quite a number of our students have taken the advice to complete professional certifications close to their graduation.

Become a Powerful Communicator

A successful analyst should become an effective communicator, verbally and in writing, and know how to comprehensively explain the facts, detail a strategy for success, and highlight the risks and repercussions for failing to act upon information. A great cyber security analyst will challenge accepted norms and develop new approaches to security. These analysts will create new ways to protect our critical infrastructure, safeguard our intellectual property, and bring criminals to justice.

Darren Hayes

Darren Hayes is Assistant Professor and Director of Cyber Security at Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems in New York.