Cybersecurity for the Masses

Anyone can be a victim. Anybody who uses e-mail and has received a virus has been a victim of cybervandalism. Cybercrime—stalking, harassment, tampering, fraud, and theft of property or service—happens daily by way of the Internet.

From left: Bill Oblitey, Mary Micco, and Dennis Giever

From left, Bill Oblitey and Mary Micco of the Computer Science Department and Dennis Giever of Criminology

If Dennis Giever had a credo, it might be an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A hackneyed admonition, perhaps, but one that might make the hacker drop in his tracks. He believes that it is the average citizen who will notice an act of terrorism or other crime by means of technology, and, therefore, blow the whistle. To notice it, he or she must recognize it.

The Criminology Department chairperson’s vision for an undergraduate minor in cybersecurity is based on prevention and public awareness; what makes it special is that it may be the first in the nation to be multidisciplinary, entailing courses in both computer science and criminology. It is meant for the average citizen, not the technology expert. 

Giever joined colleagues in the Computer Science Department, Mary Micco and William Oblitey, to write a proposal and receive a $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant funds development of a minor program and allows IUP to offer workshops that might spur other educators to develop similar programs.

“Our goal is to start the process of educating the masses,” said Giever. “The realization is that we have to get this information into classrooms everywhere.”

While the official minor discipline is being developed by faculty members in both academic areas, two courses already are offered to IUP students. Criminology offers Cybersecurity and the Law, and Computer Science offers Cybersecurity Basics, according to Giever. Micco, Oblitey, and Giever oversaw three workshops during the summer meant to assist educators in other settings to develop their own programs; another workshop is planned. In addition, the Computer Science Department is developing an information assurance concentration, and certification and literacy programs are being considered.

“We want to be proactive. The [experts] in the field today are reactive. If something happens, they have tons of expertise to fix and investigate a problem,” said Giever, referring to crimes such as product tampering, interruption of service, stalking, and murder. “We want to prevent these things from happening…. It becomes an issue of public awareness. We have a long way to go before the general public understands all of this,” Giever said. “A small circle of specialized IT professionals has traditionally been responsible for working with this type of activity. But, it’s time that not just they and law enforcement officials understand this. The office manager must understand. That’s why we need an interdisciplinary minor.”

Healthy Cyberhabits