Utica College on the Leading Edge of Cyber Security Programs, by Frank DiMaria

With each passing generation the technologies used to wage war and conduct business evolve. At one time, warriors carried spears and shields into battle while fur trappers traded their goods for food. Today, theoretically at least, wars can be waged in cyberspace while compa-nies gather endless amounts of personal data on their customers, sometimes without permission.

Utica College

Both the military and corporations heavily rely on information technology. This reliance, however, comes at a cost. “Whether you’re talking about command and control, whether you’re talking about communication, whether you’re talking about gathering intelligence, recognizance, logistics…the more dependent you become on this domain of cyberspace, that becomes another avenue for an adversary to attack,” said Joe Giordano, director, cyber programs at Utica College.

MPS in Cyber Policy and Risk Analysis

This past fall, Utica College, which was designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense Education by both the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security, began offering a Master of Professional Studies in Cyber Policy and Risk Analysis. This non-technical degree educates and prepares cybersecurity professionals to deal with the unique policy-related challenges present in the dynamic field of cybersecurity both domestically and internationally. 

“What we’re looking at here are things like cyber policy, compliance, laws, legal issues, ethical issues,” Giordano said. “We’re looking at a cyber future for the United States and probably the world. How do we handle data responsibly ethically?” Giordano asked. 

This wide-ranging degree addresses the ethical use of individuals’ personal information in areas like healthcare and within the intelligence community. 

Students entering the program can build upon its core courses by choosing one or both of its specializations.

The cyber policy specialization closes the gap between technology and policy by examining U.S. laws and public policies as they relate to cybersecurity. Students in this concentration take courses on cyber-space law, public policy and politics; the law and ethics of cyber espionage; cyber war and deterrence and international aspects of cyber policy. Former U.S.


Ambassador David Smith who led the U.S.-Soviet Defense and Space Talks under President George H. W. Bush designed all four of these courses specifically for Utica College. 

The cyber fusion and analysis specialization prepares students for careers as compliance and privacy officers, HIPPA surveillance monitors, intelligence or cyber surveillance analysts and data mining specialists. Data fusion, like its name implies, merges data sets from multiple sources. “You can look at it like a military term. (For example) data set A is unclassified and data set B is unclassified, but if you put A together with B, you have a sensitive or classified data set,” Giordano said. Students learn defensive and offensive modes of operation, sources of surveillance and tracking, web data mining and the legal and ethical issues important to the field. The courses in this specialization include cyber ethics and professional responsibility; open source cyber surveillance; cyber data fusion and advanced topics in cyber data fusion.

Leading the Way in Cybersecurity Programs

Utica College is no stranger to cybersecurity. It is home to the Economic Crime and Cybersecurity Institute, the Northeast Cybersecurity Forensic Center and the Center for Identity Management and Information Protection. About five years ago, Utica began offering an M.S. in cybersecurity. This hands-on, technical degree comprises four specialties; computer forensics, intelligence, cyber operations and economic crime investigation. 

The computer forensics specialty is designed for those students interested in collecting and preparing evidence of computer crimes such as fraud and cyber espionage. The curriculum emphasizes a comprehensive understanding of the forensic tools and techniques used to investigate and analyze networkrelated incidents and preserve digital evidence. 

Often the word “forensic” conjures up notions of law enforcement, but the skills associated with this specialty far exceed the realm of law enforcement, Giordano said. “(We’re talking about) gathering evidence on a network, gathering digital evidence of a cyber attack and even gathering evidence in real time as an attack is occurring,” Giordano said.

Professionals interested in cyber intelligence and counterintelligence, cyber counterterrorism and cyber countersabotage may want to pursue the intelligence specialization. The curriculum covers analysis of global and national cybersecurity policies, the study and protection of critical infrastructures and operations involving cyber threats and defense. This specialization builds on traditional intelligence functions to determine an adversary’s motive and prevents the adversary from gathering information. “It’s taking traditional intelligence functions and bringing them over to the cyber environment. It’s very, very leading edge,” Giordano said.

Cyber operations, another specialization in Utica’s cybersecurity master’s program, is for professionals wishing to protect and defend organizations from cyberattacks. Students gain the critical knowledge needed through a hands-on, lab-oriented curriculum that includes an in-depth examination of cyber tactics, techniques, procedures and more. “You’re looking at protect and defend, you’re looking at vulnerability assessment, penetration testing, you’re looking at modeling how an adversary might attack, you’re looking at things like data hiding, steganography, anonymity,” Giordano said. 


For those interested in fighting white collar crime, Utica offers a specialization that provides students with the skills necessary to investigate economic crime, which over the past decade has shifted to cyber-space, Giordano said. Utica is educating the fraud investigator of the future, he said. 

Currently, Utica has over 300 active students in its master’s of cyber-security program, leading Giordano to call the program’s intake “unbelievable.” The MPS in cyber policy and risk analysis, which is in its infancy, had an initial cohort of about 12 students this past fall. At first blush, these numbers may seem low, but Giordano pointed out that the field of cyber policy is not yet fully understood. The greater community values the technical aspects of cyber-security like firewall management and intrusion detection systems. Few, however, understand the need for cyber policy and analysis.  

“I’m not sure that the overall greater community understands where all of this is yet. [We’ve all] heard of chief information security officer, chief financial officer, chief operating officer. I think that some agencies are looking at a chief privacy officer, because…you’re getting companies and government organizations that are handling large amounts of very sensitive information,” Giordano said. 

In many ways Utica’s master’s programs in cyber security and cyber policy and risk analysis are tailor-made to keep America’s military and its businesses one step ahead of their cyber adversaries.

For more information, visit Professor Giordano's webpage at http://programs.online.utica.edu/faculty/ms-cybersecurity-faculty.asp