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Cybersecurity at STC: Educating Law Enforcement’s Hidden Heroes

The world’s most effective detectives don’t have prime-time TV shows. They don’t slide stylishly across car hoods or fire off slick one-liners as they casually remove their fashionable shades. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t in style.

Replace the squad car with a souped-up laptop, the clever one-liners with cunning lines of code, and the sunglasses with a sharp, situation-trained eye for danger, and you’re closer to the modern law enforcement professionals that drive the in-demand field of Cybersecurity.

In an increasingly technology-dependent world, cyber attacks have become not just common, but constant. From personal identity fraud, to e-retail theft and even hacking of corporate and government networks, cyber-crime has surged at a rate far faster than the tech and manpower needed to fight it. And Texas is not immune – according to the personal finance website SmartAsset, the Lone Star State ranks 10th, nationally, in prevalence of identity theft.

“It is very often that we hear on the news about cyber attacks, and how these big-name companies are getting their systems compromised,” says Francisco Salinas, chair of the Cybersecurity department at South Texas College. “Cybersecurity has become more popular over the last couple of years in part because of [these] events.

Now is the time to earn a degree in Cybersecurity.”

With its new, National Security Agency-certified Cybersecurity Specialist program, South Texas College is helping lead the charge against cybercrime in Texas, and beyond. STC’s program, launched in the Fall of 2017, is one of just four in Texas bearing the National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Two-Year (CAE2Y) designation – and the only program of its type in South Texas.

The high-tech and hands-on curriculum provides real world-relevant training in network protection and monitoring, incident response, and other aspects of cyber defense. Originally configured as a “Digital Forensics” career certificate, STC’s Cybersecurity Specialist Associate degree program was born in 2017, out of the NSA/Homeland Security designation as well as critical workforce demand for college-educated Cybersecurity professionals.

“It is an honor to be one of the few in Texas to offer our community an opportunity to earn a formal education in cybersecurity,” says Salinas. “We take pride in utilizing state-of-the-art technologies to teach our students skill sets that are very relevant in the IT industry.”
Francisco Salinas - Cybersecurity department chair

“It is an honor to be one of the few in Texas to offer our community an opportunity to earn a formal education in cybersecurity,” says Salinas. “We take pride in utilizing state-of-the-art technologies to teach our students skill sets that are very relevant in the IT industry.”

With the start of the holiday retail season comes an increased focus on cyber crimes, such as identity theft and credit card fraud. As hackers – and hacking tools – become more sophisticated, Cybersecurity professionals are commanding more demand than ever, saving businesses billions of dollars, while helping keep the public safe from data leaks, online retail fraud, and more. They’re accomplishing this by designing smarter and more secure systems, and improving their capacity to identify and battle imminent threats.

According to Salinas, South Texas College’s program is geared toward preparing future professionals for a wide array of in-demand Cybersecurity positions, from forensic analysts, to engineers, testers, data professionals, and more. “There are many job opportunities in this field. I truly believe that a career in cybersecurity is very rewarding.”

Cybersecurity students at South Texas College and beyond tend to share core attributes, like tech-savvy, an eye for detail, and an interest in justice. But the field is far from a clique. Rather, it attracts an independent and diverse array of personalities, with many prospects finding their Cybersecurity calling later in life.

“We have many veterans that after serving this great country, they come back and want to get an education in cybersecurity,” says Salinas. “We have students that are fresh out of high school and learned about cybersecurity from one of their teachers or counselors.

“We have a little bit of everything.”

Graduates of the South Texas College Cybersecurity Specialist program are entering a literal world of opportunity, with demand surfacing in virtually every part of the globe. Locally, Cyberseek.org estimates that there are 20,000 vacant cybersecurity positions in Texas alone, with more than 300,000 available nationally.

As long as technology keeps advancing, and the world keeps turning, it’s hard to imagine Cybersecurity going out of style.

To learn more about South Texas College’s NSA-certified Cybersecurity Specialist program, visit SouthTexasCollege.edu/Cybersecurity.


STC Cybersecurity Presents…

Tips to keep your data safe!

With 57%* of consumers planning to do their holiday shopping online this year, it’s more important than ever to keep our data safe, whether on a laptop, tablet or mobile device.



#1. Power Up Your Password:

It’s easy as “1-2-3” for online thieves to crack a simple password. Make it long and unwieldy, like a Burmese python. Also consider “multi-factor authentication” (aka “Two-Factor Identification” or “2FA”), wherein the user attaches an extra security question to protect logins for popular apps and websites.



#2. Power Down Your Bluetooth:

Cybersecurity experts work every day to identify new vulnerabilities and threats, but the surest way to keep your data safe is to limit its exposure to prying eyes. When you switch off your Bluetooth network when you're not using it, you send hackers a clear message: … Actually, you don't send them anything at all… which is exactly the point.



#3. Wi-Fi? Because-Fi.

Be wary of public wi-fi spots, even when they’re password-protected. Weak encryption and rogue networks (in which hackers “eavesdrop” on your device’s communication to trusted networks) combine to conjure a widely publicized but little understood cybersecurity nightmare. Avoid online shopping, banking, or anything that involves your personal information when using a public Wi-Fi network. That game-worn JJ Watt shin guard will still be on auction when you get home.



#4. The Updating Game.

The software update for your laptop and mobile device always seems to pop up right at the busiest possible time. This is a feature designed to frustrate you so that you will smash your device in anger, and be forced to purchase a new one, driving mobile tech stocks ever higher. OK, not really… Actually, heeding these annoying update reminders are a great way to avoid getting ripped off. In the world of cybersecurity, threats regenerate on a weekly, and even daily, basis. When you keep your devices up-to-date, it’ll be the hackers that are left frustrated.



#5. Stay Sharp While Shopping.

The holiday shopping season is a time of joy, peace and cheer. For hackers. For the rest of us, it’s a time of vigilance and mistrust. Shop only on trusted sites and apps, using trusted networks. Don’t respond to emails or texts advertising products, even if they appear to originate from trusted sources. Consider designating a single credit card for use online, so purchases (and potential fraud) will be easier to track. And never forget that old chestnut from your Dad: If it sounds too good to be true… it probably is.