Cyber Security is an important area of studies which focuses on the detection, analysis and risk mitigation of threats to computer systems from malicious agents which use inter-connected networks as conduits for their dirty work. Cyber threats range from the intentional targeting of systems for espionage and data to the unplanned distribution of random viruses and bots.
The importance of Cyber Security can be gauged from the fact that besides the US Government formulating a state-level Cyber Security Strategy, even under-developed countries like India are rushing to catch pace. Recently, India and Israel agreed to enhance cyber security research by working in collaborative projects. Israel expects India’s cyber security market to reach the $1 billion mark by 2020. Countries like India and South East Asian countries like Malaysia and Singapore have made massive investments in promoting Research & Development into Cyber Security awareness.
Consequently, these countries have post-graduate and PhD-level programs in this discipline whereas Pakistan appears to have limited itself to the traditional understanding of Information Security. Unlike Cyber Security, Information Security is a generalized degree program with a brief mix of Forensics, Cryptography, Malware Analysis/Reverse Engineering and Basic Concepts. Proper familiarization with the detailed theoretical concepts of what Cyber Security actually stands for is non-existent. In other instances, a handful of institutes offer elective courses on “Cyber Warfare” which are a more advanced military concept focused more on the offensive.
A scan of Pakistani universities recognized for their efficient Computer Science education is presented below, along with summaries of their programs with regards to Cyber Security.
The following universities mentioned in the QS World University Rankings® 2015/16 (in descending order) offer Computer Science degree programs:-
1. NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCES AND TECHNOLOGY (NUST), ISLAMABAD
Summary: The MS and PhD Information Security curriculum at Military College of Signals (MCS), NUST does not offer any Cyber Security courses. Students at MCS told PakWired that they once had a summer workshop on Cyber Warfare but very little students showed interest. Subsequently, that was shelved too.
2. LAHORE UNIVERSITY OF MANAGEMENT SCIENCES (LUMS)
Summary: Curriculum not available. Available information suggests there is no such program on Cyber Security.
3. UNIVERSITY OF ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY (UET), LAHORE
Summary: The MS and PhD Computer Science programs offer no specialization in Cyber Security.
4. UNIVERSITY OF KARACHI
Summary: No course on or even closely related to Cyber Security.
5. THE UNIVERSITY OF LAHORE (UOL)
Summary: No courses in MS or PhD.
Some other famous but generally lower-ranked universities are as follows:
1. National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences (NUCES)
Summary: Karachi Campus of NUCES offers an MS Computer Securitydegree program with a course on Network and Cyber Security (Course Code CS630). It isn’t known whether any students opted for this among the list of available core courses.
2. Riphah International University
Summary: Riphah offers Cyber Security Policies as an elective subject in its MS Information Security program.
3. COMSATS Institute of Information Technology
Summary: MS Information Security program offers no specialization or course in Cyber Security. Scheme of studies for PhD Computer Science wasn’t available.
4. CECOS University of IT & Emerging Sciences
Summary: No curriculum details available.
5. Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute (GIKI)
Summary: No specialization or course in Cyber Security.
As we can see, only NUCES Karachi Campus and Riphah International University in Islamabad offer courses close to Cyber Security. However, their overall academic rankings based on research output and innovative projects is poor.
On the other hand, there are several universities in India which offer specializations and dedicated degree programs in Cyber Security. A few of them are as follows:-
1. Amrita University offer M. Tech in Cyber Security (theory + industrial practice, the perfect combination for enthusiasts).
2. Sardar Patel University of Police, Security and Criminal Justice offers M. Tech and MS in Cyber Security with impressive syllabi.
3. National Law University offers MS Cyber Law & Security.
4. Hindustan University offers B. Tech IT with specialization in Cyber Security.
As early as January 2013, the University Grants Commission in India had directed universities and technical colleges to teach Cyber Security courses not only during postgraduate but also undergraduate levels. In December 2015, NIIT University India in conjunction with renowned consultancy company PwC (Pricewaterhouse Coopers) signed an MoU to develop a 2-year Masters in Cyber Security program. Even more recently, the Indian state of Karnataka declared that all universities in its territory would offer Cyber Security courses to build a skilled future workforce. The announcement was made by none other than Mr T B Jaychandra, Minister for Higher Education.
As we discuss India’s initiatives, let us also not forget that India has one of the lowest Internet penetrations in Asia Pacific. Despite this, the government of New Delhi has made efforts to create a strong cyber task force comprising talented men and women from across the country. Their strategic plan, according to the National Cyber Security Policy (2013) is to have a force of 500,000 cyber security professionals by 2018 and a base of 1 million such professionals by 2025.
Now as for Pakistan; the road is long but we (read “government”) hasn’t considered even taking the first step. None of the reputable institutes have Cyber Security specialization courses, let alone full degree programs.