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New Program at WITC Focuses on Growing Cybersecurity Field
Oct 31, 2020
Drained bank accounts, stolen identities, hacked smartphones and unknown digital intrusions in our everyday personal and business life -- we all know someone or an organization that’s been on the receiving end to these unsuspecting and invasive schemes and it may have even happened to you. The question for many businesses is not “if” a cyber-attack will happen, it’s “when”. The time is now, more than ever, to protect ourselves and our organizations from the complex and wide variety of cyber threats with cybersecurity. WITC is professionally training cyber superheroes to detect, protect and defend against attacks in its new IT-cybersecurity specialist program.
Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting systems, networks and programs from digital attacks, and the demand for cybersecurity jobs is at an all-time high. According to Forbes, cybersecurity is the job sector of the future. Throughout the state, a median of hourly earnings to start, sits at $37.92 per hour. According to Forbes, in the start of 2018, there was nearly a half million cybersecurity job openings in the U.S. alone. That need ranks as one of the top positions employers are looking for in the nation, right next to healthcare.
“It’s second only to nursing. You can pretty much throw a dart at the map anywhere you want and get a pretty good job,” said Mike Miller, IT instructor at WITC.
Daniel Schaff, a 2005 WITC graduate from the IT program, worked for global security software company McAfee for 13 years and is currently senior enterprise sales engineer for a next-gen cybersecurity technology company, Crowdstrike. Schaff says those that work in cybersecurity can eventually make salaries upwards of $100,000 per year, and there is a wide variety of positions in the field.
“If you have the skills for IT and want a job, this is the perfect occupation for you. The topic of cybersecurity is so broad that it’s easy to find a focus that interests you. Cybersecurity touches every aspect of our lives and the world we live in,” said Schaff.
Students in this program will be immersed in an IT ecosystem and learn how to secure an organization’s desktops, servers, networks and applications to support a thriving business.
“Cybersecurity is becoming an integral part of every business operations including retail, online, internet provider, education and healthcare,” said IT Instructor at WITC Greg Brodt.
The two-year IT-Cybersecurity Specialist program will give students hand-on experience with networking, operation systems, virtualization and security. Students will build a strong IT base as they install and configure Windows and Linux environments and create networks for a business-like environment. Studying attacks and security practices will help students learn to protect data for businesses like formatting security settings.
“Technology in the world today is there to help facilitate business, keep us in touch with friends and family and make our lives safer and better,” said Schaff. “Unfortunately, there are threat actors out there that for many reasons, want to disrupt how we use these technologies to connect and even worse, use them against us.”
Unfortunately, cyber-attacks are not isolated incidents and the number of attacks on businesses around the globe grows each year. Cybersecurity professionals are the ones on the front lines planning, implementing and recovering from these types of attacks every day.
Schaff says that only 10 to 15 years ago, cybersecurity was almost an afterthought when systems were deployed. The systems were often managed by administrators whose primary focus was not on protecting the networks and hosts, but to make sure the systems were working properly and that business could continue. Threats and actors in today’s world are much more technologically advanced and often well-funded. This means that organizations need to have a matured security plan implemented.
“There has been an explosion in the types and ways attacks can happen and for each one of these, a business must assess if they are going to accept, transfer or remediate the risks,” said Schaff. “Organizations are realizing they truly know nothing about security with laws like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), they can no longer take the approach of sticking their head in the sand.”
Businesses around the area are eagerly waiting to hire cybersecurity specialists. “I can’t remember how long it’s been since I’ve had a student that went more than 30 days after graduation without a job offer. Most of them even have job offers before they graduate,” said Miller. He also has some tips if you want to get involved and sign up for the IT-Cybersecurity program. “The best thing would be to stop by our campus. You’re not just buying a new TV, this is your future. Your academic education and training is worth the effort to stop down, talk to somebody, and let them guide you through the process so you aren’t missing anything.”
WITC is grateful to all its community partnerships. Your support of the WITC Foundation is essential to student success. For information on how to contribute, visit witc.edu/donate.
A nationally top-ranked college and a designated 2019 Military Friendly® School, WITC serves the educational and career needs of more than 18,000 residents of Northwestern Wisconsin each year. With multiple campuses, WITC offers career-focused associate degree programs, technical diplomas, short-term certificates, customized business training, and a wide array of courses for personal or career enrichment. WITC is a member of the Wisconsin Technical College System and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (www.hlcommission.org). For more information, call 800.243.WITC or visit witc.edu. WITC is an Equal Opportunity/Access/Affirmative Action/Veterans/Disability Employer and Educator.