President's Blog

Cyber security risks and opportunities

The same tools that have made us more productive and interconnected–namely the Internet and the cellphone–have also made us more vulnerable. It’s not just our personal privacy that is at stake. Intellectual property, financial transactions, aviation, energy grids, medical devices, automobiles, even our national security, are facing risks that we’ve never faced before.

Tackling these unconventional, technology-enabled security risks will require unconventional, technology-enabled solutions. But technology alone won’t solve the problem. Cyber security needs to be informed by criminology, psychology, law, diplomacy, data analytics, and much more. Training the experts who can effectively deal with cyber threats won’t be easy, but their skills will be in great demand. We have programs to help meet that demand, including our new Cyber Security Engineering program whose launch we will celebrate on Monday.

Given the confluence of government security agencies, government contractors, and information technology leaders in our region, it’s not surprising that the Washington metropolitan area is emerging as a cyber security hub. Ironically, cyber security is not only creating risks but also economic opportunity, and Northern Virginia stands to be one of the beneficiaries.

As a university that is committed to serving our community, we continuously listen to employers. The message could not be any clearer: cyber security will be one of the key drivers of economic growth and jobs in our region in years to come.

Last year, a study sponsored by Hewlett-Packard placed George Mason among the top 12 universities for cyber security in the country. I think it is fair to claim that our university has long been a cyber security thought leader. The Center for Secure Information Systems, for instance, in 1990 became the first academic center in cyber security at a U.S. university.

Our efforts have now produced an important next step: a new Cyber Security Engineering degree.  On Monday, Senator Mark Warner will join us at 10:30 a.m. for the official “ribbon cutting” for a program that will provide tremendous opportunities for Mason students, the National Capital Region, and the Commonwealth.

This program, the country’s first Cyber Security Engineering degree that focuses on cyber-resilience engineering design, will help Mason students fill a pressing need in both the public and private sectors. A U.S. Government Accountability Office study published earlier this year named cyber security as one of six federal workforce occupations facing mission-critical skills gaps. Various industries, including transportation, defense, energy, finance, and health care, face similar challenges.

This new program is reflective of the entrepreneurial spirit on which our university prides itself.