A sign of the times: CSULB will offer cybersecurity minor for the first time this fall

Employees don’t have to be tech geniuses to know how to protect their company’s data—and that’s the goal of the new minor in cybersecurity at Cal State Long Beach.

With phishing emails, malware, ransomware and more running rampant on the web, companies are scrambling to get the right cybersecurity talent in place. But, a company’s security is only as strong as its weakest link, computer security expert and CSULB professor Mehrdad Aliasgari said.

In other words, a company can have the best technology team around and still be vulnerable to costly cyber attacks when an average employee gives up its passwords in a phishing scam.

At a recent CIO and CEO Cybersecurity Forum, a group comprising cybersecurity officials from private companies and public agencies, executive officers overwhelmingly said they needed more employees who knew cybersecurity.

“What the industry is really demanding is that we have a talent pool of cybersecurity professionals, but also people who have a general knowledge of cybersecurity,” he said.

So, the computer science department at CSULB decided to create a new minor in the subject that would open the topic up to other non-technology related majors. The classes are lower-level, with much of the math and nuts and bolts taken out, so students can have a working understanding of how to protect themselves and their employers.

The 18-unit minor courses cover basic programming, basic encryption, network security and how to test a network, how to gather evidence if the user believes they have been compromised and how to recover files. But the courses in the minor don’t start and end in the computer science department — in a unique collaboration, the College of Business Administration and the journalism department are also part of the minor.

A business course in information systems covers how students can identify and protect business assets and a journalism class, “The Culture and Politics of the Internet” explores the regulations governing the internet and privacy.

“It’s not just the technical tools of it, its also the arts of it,” Aliasgari said.

Gwen Shaffer, the professor who teaches the journalism class that is required for the minor, said her class is focused on the key areas of telecommunications policy: net neutrality, broadband, social media platform regulation, algorithm bias.

“We talk about a lot of the things they wouldn’t talk about in a computer science class because it’s not part of the coding or architecture,” Shaffer said.

The new minor in cybersecurity will be offered starting in the fall.

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Valerie Osier is the Social Media & Newsletter Manager for the Long Beach Post. She started at the Post in 2018 as a breaking news reporter. She’s a Riverside native who found her love for journalism while at community college. She graduated from the Cal State Long Beach journalism program in 2017 and covered the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the Daily Breeze prior to coming to the Post. She lives in Long Beach with her husband and two cats.