The future of cybersecurity: Q&A with Faisal Kaleem

FaisalFaisal Kaleem is an associate professor in the Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) department.

Describe your background in information and computer sciences. What does this field mean to you?

By trade, I am an engineer and my terminal degree is in electrical and computer engineering. Since my childhood I was involved in messing around with electronics and writing computer programs. Regardless of my advanced degree in engineering, I have previously taught in computer science, decision sciences and information systems for almost 12 years and now I am finishing my first year teaching ICS at Metropolitan State. So 13 out of 17 years of my academic career has been in information and computer sciences, which indicates how passionate I am about this field. 

How is the field changing and evolving with the advances of technology and rise of threats to cyber-security?

The cyber security field is evolving at a very fast pace.  In my opinion the catalyst for this fast paced evolution was Y2K. Before Y2K, malware existed to annoy people rather than destroying or compromising information. Crackers or hackers used to exploit systems to leverage computing abilities rather than performing corporate espionage or governmental breaches. In short, cybersecurity was never taken seriously and was always thought of in terms of a reactive approach.

The advances in technology and the pervasive and ubiquitous nature of the Internet, on one hand, have revolutionized the way we interact with computing devices. They also have rapidly transformed the field of cybersecurity from an afterthought to an important priority for individuals, enterprises and nations.

​Since Y2K, cybersecurity has grown from a basic systems administration function to one of the largest sectors in IT.

How does your department prepare students for the demands of the field?

To prepare the student to cope with the challenging field of cybersecurity, Information and Computer Sciences department offers various courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Our bachelor of applied science in is an attractive option for students seeking to gain and apply knowledge of information assurance, computer incident investigation, cyberspace ethics and computer laws.​ Our technically-enriched MS in computer science program caters the need of working adult students and provides specialization in security. Additionally, we have a vibrant cybersecurity and forensics student organization where students have a chance to network and learn from their peers as well as from the industry experts and leaders who routinely show up during the club meetings.

What resources do you use to stay informed about the latest trends in IT education?

The Internet is the best resource to stay informed and current about any field. On top of that, there are various journals with good publications that provide useful insight and pointers about the latest trends in IT and cybersecurity education. In addition, I continually attend various conferences to stay up to date. One such conference is the yearly conference by the name SIGCSE (Special Interest Group in Computer Science Education). A similar conference for cybersecurity is CISSE (Colloquium for Information Security Education).

What advice would you give to a student considering a career in information and computer sciences?

This is an excellent time to pursue a career in the security field. It’s more vital than ever for organizations to heavily invest in the cybersecurity necessary to defend against potential attacks on sensitive information. HR professionals and recruiters have never faced a more immediate need for a greater pipeline of cybersecurity professionals.​ This is one area where the rules of the recession seem flipped: There are plenty of available jobs, but relatively few qualified people. I always tells my students that cybersecurity equals job security. This is the best time to join the ICS department and obtain skills in cybersecurity and forensics fields while completing your education. In addition, I also recommend my students to obtain industry certifications in the cybersecurity area, which bring industry recognition, improved job opportunities and improved pay.

What excites you the most about the future of your field? What concerns you most?

The most exciting thing about cybersecurity is that this field probably will never see its demise. No company, no matter the size or industry, is or will ever be immune to a cyber-breach. We all know technology only goes so far; it is the skilled workers who make the difference in protecting the sensitive information. The cybersecurity field is full of opportunities and I am not hesitant to say that it is one career where the sky is the limit.

What concerns me the most is that despite all the recent efforts, we are still failing to increase the number of U.S. students engaged in the study of cybersecurity to cultivate a competent and qualified cybersecurity workforce that is critical to us as a nation to remain globally competitive, secure our national critical infrastructure and continue to drive technical innovation.