GV Cybersecurity grows to fill professional demand


Courtesy / GVSU

Audrey Whitaker, Staff Reporter

As online attacks and scams increase and become more and more advanced, so does legislation and education to prevent them.

The State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act, first introduced to the senate by Michigan Senator Gary Peters and Ohio Senator Rob Portman in July 2019, was passed by the senate on Nov. 21.  The bill aims to strengthen cybersecurity between state and local governments.

Andrew Kalafut, program chair of Grand Valley State University’s Cybersecurity BS program and program director for the Cybersecurity MS program, said that both the undergraduate and graduate cybersecurity programs became available for the first time during the fall 2019 semester. 

“Cybersecurity, of course, is keeping everything, our computer systems, all of our information systems, all of our data secure,” Kalafut said. “It is absolutely a fast-growing field.”

Kalafut said that interest has grown in cybersecurity from many different industries looking to protect themselves from online attacks, and that this has created a rapidly growing and changing job market. 

“There is an incredible shortage right now of cybersecurity talent,” Kalafut said. “A lot of jobs available, and the demand in the labor market for people to fill these jobs is only expected to grow over the next several years.”

Kalafut said that the variety of jobs range from security companies, cybersecurity positions within larger companies and even the FBI. 

Kalafut said that staying up to date with these changes is important to the cybersecurity program as well as the university as a whole.

“The number one goal is making sure that our faculty stay up to date, so all of our cybersecurity faculty do active research and keep up with the emerging trends, Kalafut said. “It’s the type of thing where, as new attacks are discovered as new ways to defend are discovered, as new risks are discovered, we have to change the content of our courses.”

Kalafut said that it’s in a company or organization’s best interest to invest in cybersecurity, often for legal reasons. Such is the case for GVSU, as educational records are one such document protected by federal law.

“There are legal regulations that require certain data to be protected. There is a law that states who we can disclose your educational records to, and under what circumstances,” Kalafut said. “If we don’t protect your educational record from the unauthorized disclosure, then, even if we didn’t intend to disclose the data and it was accidental, now we’re out of compliance with that law.”

Kalafut said that GVSU has been staying up to date with cybersecurity and encourages students to take steps to protect themselves online as well.

“There are lots of concerns but the primary one is identity theft. This is not the only thing that cybercriminals are trying to do, but this is a big one,” Kalafut said. “Making sure you use good, strong passwords and not using the same password for your email account as you use for lots of other accounts is a big one.”