N Krishna (MSc TCS 2018 – 2023) and Rahul Anand R (MSc TCS 2017 -2022) have a conversation with Dr. Shina Sheen, Associate Professor and Programme Coordinator of the newly instituted integrated programme in Cyber Security, Department of Applied Mathematics and Computational Sciences (AMCS). In this email conversation, Dr. Shina Sheen talks about the essence of Cyber Security and the programme itself, with respect to its introduction in these times and also how it stands as a potential cornerstone in the increasingly connected world. Read on:
What was the underlying cause that led to the introduction of the MSc Cyber Security Programme?
The cyber security industry is one that is growing rapidly. Data breaches and hacks are increasingly prevalent, and most businesses are recognizing the need to protect themselves from such attacks. A major cause of concern is the acute shortage of trained cyber security professionals globally. According to the Data Security Council of India, the shortage of cyber security workforce in India is 9 percent higher than the global average. Thus, there is an immediate need to address the mismatch in the demand and supply of cyber security professionals.
We’re in possibly the most uncertain time of our lives, and education is no different. What about this course does the department believe will make it successful 5 years from today? Is the timing of the introduction of such a course a cause for concern at all?
Cyber security matters more than ever during COVID-19, and the risk of threats has increased as a result of the shift to remote working. Hackers have leveraged the opportunity to attack vulnerable networks as workplaces abruptly moved to personal networks at home. The FBI, for instance, has reported an increase of more than 300% in cyber crimes since the pandemic began. So the course has been introduced at the right time when the world is more aware of cyber threats and training an industry-ready workforce is the need of the hour. Moreover the world is certainly getting smarter and more connected. By 2030 it is expected that there will be almost 125 billion devices connected together. The more you connect to some network via IoT devices, the more attack surface you add to the network. Defending from and preventing such attacks are going to be huge challenges as we move forward.
What sort of work has gone into establishing this new course? Who are the experts involved and what is their contribution going to be for the foreseeable future?
PSG’s Management are no less than educational visionaries, striving to bring out relevant courses way ahead of time. Experience in successfully conducting three five year integrated programmes under the leadership of our Head of Department, Dr R Nadarajan, has been a major strength in initiating this course. The department already has a team of faculty members working in the field of cyber security, under the guidance of Dr R Anitha, who has established a Smart and Secure environment lab with funding from the National Technical Research Organization (NTRO). Relentless work in bringing out relevant curriculum started over a year back. Academic experts from the IITs, IMSc, CMI, prominent labs such as the TCS Innovation labs, Microsoft Research and industry leaders like Acalvio, Dell Technologies, to name a few, have provided valuable inputs in framing the curriculum. Our strongly connected alumni network from all over the world associated with cyber security have also contributed extensively in the process of refining the curriculum.
What are your expectations of it’s reception in the industry when the first batch of students graduate in 2025?
The Government of India has recognized the importance of cyber security leading to setting up Centres of Excellence and funding for startups. Every organization has to have a separate team in security for defending their networks. This has led to a huge gap in cyber security professionals. The programme aims at developing industry-ready cyber security talents to meet the demands of said organizations.
What about this subject necessitates a course for itself when the other hugely successful programmes run by the department also has provisions to help a student take related courses and specialize in Cyber Security?
Cyber security is a huge domain which necessitates varying levels of expertise, ranging from offensive techniques to defensive mechanisms. It requires a good understanding of computer architecture, operating systems, computer networks and secure coding principles. Cryptography requires a strong foundation in mathematics. The curriculum is designed in such a way that there will be a good understanding of the fundamentals of computing systems and information security. Students will also be exposed to industry trends like threat hunting, crypto economics, computer forensics, etc. which are specific to this programme. The MSc Cyber Security programme is designed to provide a holistic approach to the study of cyber security.
Are there any prerequisite expectations of a student who wishes to enter the cyber security programme?
If you are a student with an inquisitive mind and seeks to pursue a career in a domain that is exciting, with constantly evolving challenges, then cyber security is the study area to choose.
Team Bridge would like to thank Dr. Shina Sheen for this interview. For add-ons to the Cyber Security programme, read The Man with a Plan. Check out M.Sc Data Science and M.Sc Theoretical Computer Science: Beyond Conventional Computer Science to know about the other courses offered by the department.