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Update FC2

By Kim Franke-Folstad

Student looking at computer with code displayed on the screen.

As cybersecurity becomes a priority for organizations large and small, thousands of cyber professionals will be needed to protect global networks and information systems. The demand for a qualified workforce is expected to grow well into the future.

Entrepreneur and "Shark Tank" investor Robert Herjavec is right when he claims there will be no such thing as an unemployed cybersecurity professional for the next ten years, says Sri Sridharan, director of the Florida Center for Cybersecurity (FC2) at USF.
"There are so many aspects of cybersecurity, if you're remotely interested in the field, you can find a pathway in," Sridharan says.
And it can be a lucrative career if you have the right personality, skill set and passion, says Nathan Fisk, an assistant professor of cybersecurity education at USF.

Because the field is always changing, "you must have a personal drive when it comes to self-learning," Fisk says. That means constantly challenging yourself and becoming immersed in the culture.

Educators are working to cultivate that mode of learning with students at the university level, Fisk says. But he also advises those who are interested in the field to engage with the local cybersecurity community, starting with social gatherings and meet-up groups, where they can learn the basics for free and get a sense of what their strengths and interests are.

You don't need a degree in the field to have a successful career, Fisk says. But the fundamentals you'll get from a formal program are valuable. When employers go looking, they know the candidate with a degree has a baseline of knowledge to fall back on, even as the techniques and tools keep changing.

"But what makes or breaks you is your passion and your connection to the local cyber community," he says.

USF is working to build those connections. The university offers multiple education options designed to meet the growing demand, including a master's degree in cybersecurity, graduate certificates in cybersecurity, and industry-recognized certifications. And it has been designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cybersecurity by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.

Having FC2 on the Tampa campus is another plus. And USF's proximity to U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command at Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base allows students and professors to tap into even more expertise. USF recently advanced to No. 5 in Military Times ranking of the nation's 10 best cybersecurity programs for veteran and military-connected students.

It follows that so many military veterans – experienced with rapid training and career movement – have found their way into USF classes and the cybersecurity field. They're focused, Fisk says, and they come in with a much-sought-after "adversarial" attitude: They think about the work as though they are the attacker. It isn't "How can I defend this?" but "How would I break into this if I could?"
People who have been doing IT for years also are often self-taught and up to date on the latest modes of attack, making them well-suited for a cybersecurity career. But that means the candidate pool is a bit homogenous right now. Historically, socioeconomic factors have shaped who has access to computers, and by extension, who can be a hacker – namely white, middle-class males.
There are brilliant people out there who don't fit that mold, Fisk says. So there's been an effort to expand outreach to minorities and women – and to find computer-savvy men and women with social skills who can comfortably work with others and easily insert themselves into new and diverse situations.

"There's a lot of work for different people with different backgrounds," Fisk says. The challenge is finding them – and keeping them engaged.

Video comments from Sri Sridharan – USF Cybersecurity: An Industry Demand


Illustration of a reflection of a woman's face in a mirror that is being held by a hand.

New Report: Florida Making Progress Toward Safer Cyberspace

The Florida Center for Cybersecurity at USF released its inaugural report, which takes a comprehensive look at the state's cybersecurity landscape.

Florida ranks third in the nation for cybercrime incidents, victims and losses reported to the FBI – but the state is working to mitigate threats facing Florida businesses and poised to become a leader in cybersecuity education, workforce development and research.

Picture of "The State of Cybersecurity in Florida" book

In February, FC2 released the first State of Cybersecurity in Florida report. It provides a comprehensive review of the state's cyber threat environment, workforce needs, education and training opportunities, and research activity, as well as an in-depth examination of the cybersecurity posture of Florida's businesses and organizations. FC2 contracted with Gartner Consulting to independently conduct the study and document their findings in the report, which is intended to facilitate decision-making for policymakers and stakeholders in industry, academia, defense and government.

"Good decisions come from good information," says Sri Sridharan, FC2 director. "Our goal was to take a broad look at the cybersecurity landscape in Florida and compile information that stakeholders across the state can use as they make decisions impacting their organizations.

"We believe there is a much-needed shift taking place, with organizations that traditionally may have been reactive when it comes to cybersecurity now becoming proactive," Sridharan adds. "That shift, coupled with the state's commitment to cybersecurity, is sure to yield huge dividends for Florida."

The growing demand for cybersecurity professionals outpaces the supply in Florida and the nation, the new report notes. Sixty-eight percent of the Florida organizations surveyed reported cyber staffing challenges, and only 32 percent surveyed were confident they are prepared for a cyberattack.

USF plays a major role in feeding the talent pipeline needed to build a skilled cyber workforce. Of the 35 public and private colleges and universities in Florida offering cybersecurity-specific degrees and certificate programs at the end of 2017, including training in digital forensics and information security, USF had the most – 10, the report says. The USF offerings include an interdisciplinary master's degree, developed with assistance from the Florida Center for Cybersecurity, which boasts an enrollment of more than 400 students.

To view the full report, visit Florida Center for Cybersecurity

Twelve tips to keep you safe online

By Kim Franke-Folstad

The scary truth is that if you're doing anything on the internet, you're vulnerable to cybercrime. But you can take some important steps to help keep your data secure:

  1. Make sure you have a secure wireless connection. Without certain precautions, anyone nearby can use your wireless network. That includes any hacker who decides to piggyback on your network or access information on your device. The same holds true for using public wi-fi.

  2. Be certain the websites you visit are secure. Look at the URL. If it begins with "https" instead of "http," it means the site is secured using an SSL Certificate (the s stands for secure). To get that certificate, the company must go through a validation process. You also can check for the lock icon; click on it, and you'll get the security information for the site.

  3. Only download apps from reputable sites. Avoid third-party app sites, and only download from reputable stores (like Apple's App Store). They aren't perfect, but official app stores have processes in place to root out high-risk apps.

  4. Don't share passwords and PINs. Not even with your kids. Especially not with your kids, who will likely share them with a friend.

  5. Keep your passwords as complicated as possible. Change them regularly and don't use the same password for everything.

  6. Be social media savvy. Keep your profile short on details and don't overshare. You could be handing out clues to your passwords and PINs, revealing pertinent information about young children that makes it easier to steal their identity, or letting thieves know exactly when and where you're on vacation.

  7. Don't put your Social Security number on anything unless you absolutely must. If you see a space for it on a form at your doctor's office, for example, just leave it blank. If they ask, say no and explain that you're worried about identity theft.

  8. Install a good anti-virus software on your computer. And allow the updates when asked.

  9. Be wary of phishing emails. Don't casually click on links or open attachments. If you aren't sure an email is legitimate, contact the source (your friend, your payroll department or the relevant agency) before opening the message.

  10. Don't fall prey to hoaxes and urban legends. Some messages are more suspicious than others, but be especially cautious if the message promises money or a prize, or if it suggests there will be tragic consequences if you don't act. Often hoax emails contain bad grammar and spelling errors. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you want to do some checking, look up the wording on sites such as and

  11. Check your bank and credit card statements monthly. If you see anything that seems strange, immediately alert the appropriate institution.

  12. Consider signing up for an identity theft protection service. It will search for potential threats and send you fraud warnings. Some, like LifeLock, will assign a specialist to assist you in restoring your identity.

Video comments from Sri Sridharan – USF Cybersecurity: Cyber Hygiene