‘It’s timely, it’s needed, it’ll help people in this area’: Why WKU is adding a cybersecurity program


Jake Moore

WKU has created a cybersecurity data analytics masters of science degree that will begin fall of 2022.

Damon Stone, News reporter

A new cybersecurity data analytics master of science program is coming to WKU in the fall of 2022. As our day-to-day lives continue to shift online, cybersecurity expertise is needed now more than ever.

“If you’ve looked at what’s been going on in the news over the past couple of years, there’s a lot of cybersecurity attacks,” Ray Blankenship, department chair and professor of information systems at the Gordon Ford College of Business, said. “If you look in the health care area, there’s ransomwares that are occurring. It’s making organizations more aware of these types of attacks and how to help themselves prevent them.”

The program, which will be provided exclusively online, is geared towards infrastructure workers of any organization or business that could be susceptible to cyberattacks. The program will instruct students on how to utilize data analytics to detect security breaches. 

Mark Ciampa, a professor of information systems at WKU, is one of many who will be teaching the program. Ciampa has been involved with cybersecurity for over a decade and has published multiple college-level textbooks on the topic. 

“WKU is not unique in the sort of attacks that happen here,” Ciampa said. “One that we commonly see at WKU is individuals whose email has been compromised, then we get a message from them telling us to click on a link. Because we know them, we think it’s a trusted source and we can click on this link, then all sorts of bad stuff starts happening to my computer.” 

Since the new program is a combination of two areas, one being cybersecurity and the other data analytics, Ciampa hopes to use these fields in tandem to predict cyberattacks instead of simply responding to them. 

One of the more pressing cybersecurity issues that college campuses face is a simple one — passwords. 

“Users tend to have very weak passwords,” Ciampa said. “As much as we don’t like passwords, they still are that first line of security. Attackers know that, and once they crack the password, they have access to everything behind it.” 

Cyberattacks have become commonplace to the point that they feel like background noise. Personal data, including non-sensitive credit card information, is frequently released onto the web in massive data breaches.

“I like to think of cybersecurity in terms of weather,” Ciampa said. “The real value of weather data is being able to predict if there’s gonna be rain or snow. That’s really what cyber analytics is: being able to take data and predict the sort of attack we need to be prepared for, in a nutshell.” 

WKU will become one of the few schools in the area with a cybersecurity data analytics program. Due to its proximity to Nashville and Louisville, Ciampa believes WKU is a place people will flock to in order to learn from the program. 

“We think it’s gonna be a great program,” Blankenship said. “It’s timely, it’s needed, it’ll help people in this area, and it’ll help people that, if they have this degree, they can either go back and work in their local communities or go anywhere they want.” 

News Reporter Damon Stone can be reached at [email protected]