School of Engineering and Computational Sciences makes cyber security a priority

In a society that is increasingly concerned with cyber security, administrators in Liberty’s School of Engineering and Computational Sciences is ensuring students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels are equipped to work in the world of technology.

Security — Sony is one of the most recent victims of hacking.

Security — Sony is one of the most recent victims of hacking.

“Information, data, everything is now in the cyber world,” David Donahoo, dean of the School of Engineering and Computational Sciences, said. “There’s no company that I know of that does not use computers for something, and those computers are vulnerable. … The more information that’s out there, the more that’s available in the cyber world, the larger the pie becomes as far as what somebody can get into. … (Companies) need to assume that they are under attack.”

According to Dr. Mark Shaneck, online chair of Cyber Security and associate professor of Computer Science, this vulnerability has led to an increase in the need for professionals who understand the intricacies of the field.

“Wherever there’s technology, there’s a need for cyber security,” Shaneck said.

In response, the School of Engineering and Computational Sciences recently introduced a new Master of Science in Cyber Security program. According to Donahoo, the 36-hour online program is designed for those who are in the field or have completed a computer science degree.

“The focus in developing the curriculum has always been on practical, hands-on skills,” Shaneck said. “… The view that the student has is essentially the same as if they were doing this at a company somewhere.”

The master’s program, which launched in August of 2014, currently has an enrollment of 100 students.

In addition, faculty members in the School of Engineering and Computational Sciences are currently developing a cognate in cyber security. According to Donahoo, the cognate will be a formalized addition to the degree programs the school currently offers, as the cognate will be composed of already-existing courses.

The school’s cyber defense club, which is open to all students interested in the field, also focuses on cyber security. The club recently wrapped up the National Cyber League fall competition. According to Shaneck, final results in the individual competition are still being determined. Last year, the team took second place in the Mid-Atlantic regional finals of the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.

“(The Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition) was very realistic in the sense of, they had two eight-hour days, and they gave them, probably, three weeks worth of work to do in those two days,” Shaneck, who serves as the team’s coach, said. “So they had to pick and choose, prioritize what they were gonna spend their time on. They had to balance that between keeping out the attackers … and also trying to get new systems up and running.”

Shaneck said Liberty hopes to host similar contests in the future through a mobile competition environment.

Liberty has also been working with area high schools, including Heritage High School and Liberty Christian Academy, to develop cyber security clubs and get students involved in local competitions.

For more information on Liberty’s emphasis on cyber security, visit

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