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New USC Minor could Help Protect Your Personal Information

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USC grad student Muhammad Sakib is doing research on computer network security. USC grad student Muhammad Sakib is doing research on computer network security.

The University of South Carolina started offering a new minor this semester that could eventually lessen the chances of a hacker stealing your personal information. The minor is in Applied Computing, and one track within that will focus on cyber security.

Professor Michael Huhns, chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at USC, says since it's a minor, graduates won't likely be able to get jobs in cyber security. After all, the minor is for USC students who are not studying computer science or computer engineering. But he says the minor will still be helpful in today's computer-reliant environment.

"Almost every organization, every company, every retail business has someone who deals with the data for that business," he says. "And if that person also knows something about security, they'll be much more valuable to that organization."

Finding people who are qualified to work in cyber security is a nationwide struggle, he says. And in legislative hearings, state officials working on improving the state's computer security after the hacking at the Department of Revenue last year have complained that they can't find enough people willing to work in cyber security for the state, because the pay is so much lower than what they can make in the private sector.

Dr. Huhns says of his computer science and computer engineering majors, "My department produces fewer than 100 students each year that understand computing and something about security, and there are probably ten times as many jobs as that available, and we can't come close to filling the demand."

You would think students would be lining up to go into the field. He says every graduate has multiple job offers from across the country, and the lowest starting salary that any of them has accepted was $60,000 a year.

Muhammad Sakib, a graduate student at USC doing research on network security, says, "The foundation of cryptography is pure math, and not too many people find it comfortable to work with pure math and not too many people have math backgrounds. So that's one issue."

It wasn't an issue for him, though. He went into computer science and network security because he wants to help protect people's personal information. He says he was especially concerned when he heard about the hacking at the Department of Revenue, but knew it was in his area of expertise.      

That means more demand for his skills. "It's like the medical profession; people will always get sick. So in the same way there will be always attacks on our systems, so always there will be a demand of security professionals, security researchers," he says. 

A spokesman for Clemson University says while it does not have a major or minor in cyber security, it does offer computer science degrees that prepare graduates for careers in cyber security. Dr. Huhns says The Citadel, College of Charleston, and Charleston Southern also have strong computer science programs.


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