Fighting Back

Fighting Back

Graphic of a lock in a digitized format

Cybercriminals stole back almost a trillion dollars last year; the School of Engineering's new cybersecurity lab prepares graduates to stop them.


— Andres L. Carrano, PhD, Dean of the School of Engineering

This past year was a painful one for millions around the world — but a great year for cybercriminals.

The estimated global losses from cybercrime in 2020 were projected at almost $1 trillion — as the coronavirus pandemic — with everyone working from home, doing everything on their phones and computers — opened up new vulnerabilities for cybercriminals to exploit. That figure is according to a recent report in The Washington Post, citing data from the Center for Strategic and International Studies and computer security company McAfee. It is almost double the monetary loss from cybercrime in 2018.

All of us are more vulnerable to these cybercriminals than we ever have been, as more of our daily lives are mediated through the internet. We work remotely, shop from online apps, bank on our phones, and undertake dozens of other transactions on digital platforms that are susceptible to hackers.

And those hackers are becoming more sophisticated in their methods, finding new ways to breach security, stealing information like social security numbers or credit card data, taking cash directly from credit card or bank accounts, and even shutting down entire computer networks, then demanding ransom. The battle between hackers and security professionals is constantly escalating, with cybersecurity experts continually having to upgrade their skill set to stay atop the advances made by cybercriminals.

To address the demand for cybersecurity professionals across industries both nationally and internationally — from the public to the private sector — Fairfield University’s School of Engineering launched an MS in Cybersecurity Program in the fall of 2020.

“The main goal of the master’s program is to prepare professionals for the cybersecurity space with both technical hands-on experience and a broad understanding of the policies required by security governance for all companies,” said Dean of the School of Engineering Andres L. Carrano, PhD. “The students who graduate from this program will be able to assess and remediate threats, but also monitor risks and adopt the appropriate security compliance regulations.”

The scale of the demand for cybersecurity professionals is staggering. According to The New York Times, citing a report by leading research company Cybersecurity Ventures, there will be as many as 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs globally this year, as cybercrime damages climb into the trillions of dollars. Wrote Steve Morgan, editor-in-chief of Cybercrime Magazine, “If it were measured as a country, then cybercrime... would be the world’s third-largest economy after the U.S. and China.”

With such staggering anticipated demand, Fairfield’s Cybersecurity Program has much to offer, and with its location in the middle of a thriving Northeast life-science corridor, cybersecurity graduates are well-positioned to gain full-time employment in the field after graduation.


Dean Carrano believes that a Jesuit education uniquely prepares Fairfield’s School of Engineering graduates for careers in cybersecurity.

Dean Carrano said, “We offer a master’s degree in cybersecurity that can be completed entirely online with the flexibility to choose between two concentrations: a technical and a managerial track. We aim to become a steady and reliable source of cybersecurity experts to a wide array of companies.”

The School of Engineering program is based out of a new state-of-the-art cybersecurity lab, designed in partnership with Pulse Secure, the leading provider of Zero Trust Secure Access solutions. The lab supports the cybersecurity curriculum both in-person and online, and provides students with a realistic simulation to solve sophisticated, real-world security threats.

The cybersecurity program can be completed in as little as one year full-time, or two years part-time. Students can choose between a variety of core and elective coursework, from network security to ethical hacking, to network routing and switching, to software engineering methods.

Admission to the program is open to students who hold a bachelor’s degree and come from a broad array of professional or academic backgrounds such as — but not limited to — information technology, business, engineering, science, and law.

Companies often encourage employees within the cybersecurity field to continue their education with additional professional certifications such as digital forensics and security management. Fairfield’s coursework is geared toward these professional certifications and provides an in-depth understanding of these concepts. Through the School of Engineering program, students are equipped with the knowledge they need to obtain these certifications.

Explained Adrian Rusu, PhD, professor and chair of the Computer Science and Engineering Department at Fairfield, “The program’s content was designed at a deep, rigorous level of understanding of cybersecurity material, but at the same time it is closely aligned with professional certifications. In addition to getting a fundamental understanding of cybersecurity, students are also well prepared to pursue some of the most sought-after professional certifications, such as Certified Hacker 10, Certified Information Systems Security Manager, and Certified Digital Forensic Examiner.”

Similar to other graduate-level engineering programs at the School of Engineering, the Cybersecurity Program requires a two-semester capstone experience. During the capstone, students work in teams with local businesses or non-profits and perform a technical study and design software systems.

Fairfield’s school of Engineering is considered to be a pipeline for workforce development for the state of Connecticut, as noted by the recent visit of U.S. Representative Jim Himes (D., Conn., 4th District). Congressman Himes was welcomed to campus by the Engineering Department, where he explored initiatives underway by student engineers and toured engineering labs with University President Mark R. Nemec, PhD.


Above: Students in the Cybersecurity Program gain both technical hands-on experience and a broad understanding of security policies.

“The visit by Congressman Himes highlights the School of Engineering as an engine of economic development for the state of Connecticut,” said Dean Carrano. “Given his involvement in the National Security Committee, Congressman Himes showed a strong interest in our cybersecurity facilities and initiatives.”

As part of the tour, Rep. Himes visited the Cybersecurity Lab with Mirco Speretta, PhD, professor of the practice in computer science and engineering, and system administrator Joseph Wilson. During the tour, they discussed how the lab was built and customized to provide a unique hands-on, experiential learning environment for cybersecurity students.

Dr. Carrano noted that a Jesuit education and its mission to develop “men and women for others” uniquely prepares our graduates for a career in cybersecurity, and sets Fairfield University engineering graduates apart.

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