KALAMAZOO — Western Michigan University plans to launch an online program designed to improve the ability of I.T. professionals to protect against and mitigate hacks and data breaches.
The eight-week, online certification program from WMU’s Haworth College of Business and College of Engineering and Applied Sciences starts in March and consists of four courses in high-demand cybersecurity specialties.
WMU launches the certification program in response to market demands and a shortage of cybersecurity professionals, said Carol Bale, the university’s program manager for professional development.
“Every industry has data and information they need to protect and hackers are interested in anyone’s personal information and business information regardless of that industry,” Bale said.
WMU is partnering on the program through a joint venture with Ann Arbor-based Merit Network Inc. and Michigan Cyber Range, an I.T. network that connects colleges and university in the state.
The courses will provide participants a “sandbox” or cloud-based lab where they can practice hacking and defending attempted breaches.
“It’s the real deal,” said Andrew Holmes, executive director of technology at WMU. “The sand box provides a safe space to have hands-on experience with real applications and real security threats whether that’s viruses or exposed data or hardware. The students get to see what that would look like in real life, versus just reading it in a book or a traditional format.”
The four courses in the certification program are certified information systems security officer, certified penetration testing engineer, certified professional ethical hacker, and certified digital forensics examiner.
The courses, with a capacity of 20 students each and offered on a rotating basis, are designed for I.T. professionals two or three years or more into their careers who are looking to advance their skills and position, Holmes said. The program costs $3,000 and includes two attempts at the certification exam.
WMU could expand the cybersecurity certification program in the future, depending on demand and as market needs dictate, or offer them more frequently, Bale said.
“We’ll see where the interest is. There’s always interest being expressed for one program over another or new programs,” Bale said. “There’s always new cybersecurity threats that we would want to monitor and get our faculty and experts trained on so they can also provide that information and training to new and existing students.”
The certification courses are in addition to graduate and master’s degree programs in information security WMU already offers.
Data breaches alone in 2017 cost affected U.S. companies an average of $7.91 million, according to an annual analysis by IBM and the Ponemon Institute in Traverse City.
The total cost includes $1.76 million spent on post-breach responses such as help desk and investigative activities, communications, legal expenditures, and identity protection services for customers, according to the July 2018 Cost of a Data Breach Study that analyzed 477 data breaches globally.
Business lost as a result of a data breach cost companies an average of $4.2 million, an amount that includes “abnormal turnover of customers, reputation losses, and diminished goodwill,” according to the report.
The report for the first time counted the costs of mega data breaches, or those that involved the loss of 1 million to 50 million records.