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Data Security

Virginia Tech prepares students to meet demands for data security experts

September 08, 2017

Data security has become an urgent priority for business. As a result, data security talent is highly prized, whether in the field of finance, healthcare, government, education, national defense, retail or any of many other major industrial segments. Demand far outstrips supply.

Virginia Tech’s Online Master of Information Technology, offered jointly by the Pamplin College of Business and the College of Engineering, is preparing students to meet the demands of the workplace. The program – administered in the National Capital Region -- ranks second in U.S. News and World Report for Best Online Graduate Computer Information Technology Programs.

Although there is some crossover between data security and systems or network security, what distinguishes the former is its oversight of specific areas of IT operations: information leakage, privacy considerations, access control, data encryption and shared computing infrastructure.

Randy Marchany, a faculty member for the online master’s program, is long-time chief information security officer for Virginia Tech, said that in his early career, much of the emphasis for cyber security and its training practices was on understanding how computer systems could be broken into and taken over. Now the attention is on protecting data and preventing others from stealing it.

“With all the major data breaches that have happened, a lot of what we are trying to help students learn is how people can get to the data and how to design the defense against those types of attack,” he said.

As the number of cyberattacks increases, Marchany added, so do the responsibilities taken on by people who handle data security. Just as cyber criminals are relentlessly trying out new methods to get inside corporate systems, so must the security professionals in charge of protecting the data on those systems continually adapt to stay ahead of the “bad guys.”

Marchany also heads up the university’s innovative Information Technology Security Laboratory.

Read more about trends that are driving up demand for people who can protect a company’s data assets and the benefits of a master’s degree in information technology here.