With cybercrime revealed to cost Scottish businesses an estimated £5bn academics are urging firms to ensure IT staff have the right skills to overcome new and emerging threats.
To enable them to do that, Edinburgh Napier University is launching a new part-time MSc in Advanced Security and Cybercrime, the latest in a growing number of courses set up to combat rising levels of online crime.
Aimed at professionals already working in computer security, the course will arm students with the skills to combat a wide range of threats including phishing scams, online financial and identity theft as well as virus and network intrusions.
The UK government ranks cyber security as a “tier one national security priority” while the Scottish government recently appointed Fergus Ewing as its first cyber minister.
“Computer hacking and other IT security breaches cost the UK economy millions of pounds every year," said Bill Buchannan, director of Edinburgh Napier’s Centre for Distributed Computing and Security.
However, he said, despite the fact that cyber criminals pose a "clear and present danger" to all businesses regardless of their size or sector, there is a major skills shortage among IT professionals to deal with the rapidly evolving threat.
“There’s an unprecedented opportunity for those already working in IT or with a background in telecoms, to retrain to become ‘cyber professionals’," said Buchannan.
The new masters degree is aimed at developing vital skills in cybercrime, forensics and computer security while allowing a student to continue in full time employment.
The course is designed to enable students to develop practical skills in key areas like network security, operating system security, cloud security, security auditing, digital forensics and network forensics.
Modules can be completed from home or work and a full-time employee can graduate with an MSc in 18 months, with the first intake of students in September, followed by intakes in January and May.
The announcement of the new post-graduate course by Edinburgh Napier University comes a month after the government asked universities to apply for funding to run training courses for post-graduates to shore up its defences against cybercrime.
Through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), universities have been invited to apply for grants to run two new dedicated Centres for Doctoral Training.
"If the UK is to achieve its growth ambitions and maintain its reputation for world-class capability in cybersecurity, it is vital that we look to discover, develop and nurture the UK’s next generation of doctoral-level cybersecurity experts," said David Willetts, minister for universities and skills.
In April, the first batch UK universities were awarded “Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research” status. The scheme is the first in a number of initiatives outlined in the government’s National Cyber Security Strategy – Protecting and promoting the UK in a digital world.