LA GRANDE – One wrong click can land small businesses or local governments in the hands of a nasty computer virus, but a new program at Eastern Oregon University equips students to come to the rescue.
The university expanded its computer science department to include a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity. Students in the program can earn a Bachelor of Art or Bachelor of Science on campus or Online.
Transfer students with an Associate of Applied Science in Cybersecurity from a community college can transfer their entire transcript and earn a Bachelor of Applied Science in just two years.
Kiel Wadner, an EOU instructor and cybersecurity professional, helped develop the curriculum. He said classes will focus on experiential learning that prepares graduates to meet an organization’s digital security needs.
“Cybersecurity is about protecting information and the systems that deal with that information,” Wadner said. “I spend a lot of time writing little pieces of code or staring at logs from computer systems looking for anomalies, and what I do is actually a very small piece of cybersecurity.”
He explained that, similar to medicine, cybersecurity is a broad industry with a range of specialists who develop specific skill sets. EOU’s program is transfer-friendly, leaving room for students to follow their interests and shape their own specializations.
It also forgoes upper division math courses required by similar programs. Wadner said this focus on directly applicable skills suits the varied and growing industry.
From software updates, to phishing scams or firewall breaches, graduates of the program will be able to meet a range of cybersecurity needs. Wadner highlighted ransomware as a particularly stark example of the value a cybersecurity specialist brings to an organization.
“Ransomware is malicious code that gets installed on someone’s computer, then it scrambles all of your files and locks them,” he said. “Then you have to pay digital currency to get the password and unlock it. This has affected businesses and organizations of all sizes.”
Getting the files back is only half the challenge. Wadner said the real trick is building systems, both digital and practical, to safeguard against these attacks. Password requirements, malware detection, and tutorials for average users to avoid scams are all part of a cybersecurity framework that Wadner said is necessary for nearly every type of business.
“Cybersecurity as a field isn’t going away,” he said. “Communities in Eastern Oregon face these challenges just like anywhere else. This is an opportunity to develop a skilled workforce and meet those needs.”
Learn more at eou.edu/computer-science.