29/04/2020

THE cybercrime epidemic has escalated rapidly in recent years. Cyberattacks have become increasingly sophisticated, involving malware, phishing, machine learning, artificial intelligence and cryptocurrency, thus placing corporations, governments and individuals at constant risk. These new and evolving cybersecurity threats have placed cybersecurity as a top priority for many nations and businesses alike. However, many organisations and governments have struggled to hire enough qualified cybersecurity professionals to safeguard against the increase in cybercrime.

Prof Lyn Futcher

THE cybercrime epidemic has escalated rapidly in recent years. Cyberattacks have become increasingly sophisticated, involving malware, phishing, machine learning, artificial intelligence and cryptocurrency, thus placing corporations, governments and individuals at constant risk. These new and evolving cybersecurity threats have placed cybersecurity as a top priority for many nations and businesses alike. However, many organisations and governments have struggled to hire enough qualified cybersecurity professionals to safeguard against the increase in cybercrime.

Current estimates indicate that there are some 1 million unfilled cybersecurity-related positions worldwide, potentially rising to 3.5 million by 2021. In order to address this rapidly increasing demand for cybersecurity skills, academic institutions worldwide are introducing courses and programmes to teach students about cybersecurity. Among the main concerns for academics in computing, however, is which cybersecurity topics to cover and the depth thereof, as most of these courses already cover an expanse of content.

Since no single curriculum can encompass the varying cybersecurity skills needs, a set of guidelines were developed to enable institutions to introduce cybersecurity content according to their specific needs. These guidelines, referred to as the Cybersecurity Curricular Guidelines (CSEC2017),  were published by a Joint Task Force comprising members from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Education Board, the IEEE Computer Society, the Association for Information Systems Special Interest Group on Information Security and Privacy, and the International Federation for Information Processing’s Working Group for Information Security Education (IFIP WG11.8). As chair of the IFIP WG11.8, Prof Lynn Futcher was co-opted onto the Joint Task Force with her primary role being that of chair of the Global Advisory Board.

With her involvement in the Joint Task Force, Prof Futcher has realised the increased need for integrating cybersecurity into the computing curriculum, specifically with respect to Software Security. Many of her postgraduate students have therefore pursued their research in this important area of study. This research has ranged from various approaches to teaching secure programming in undergraduate computing curricula to using gamification to teach cybersecurity awareness in higher education institutions.

Currently, she has newly enrolled students specifically focusing on the cybersecurity skills gap in South Africa. She hopes that through an increased awareness of this gap within the South African context, academic institutions can better prepare their graduates in filling this gap.

  • Prof Futcher is currently an Associate Professor of the School of IT, Faculty of Engineering, the Built Environment and Technology at Nelson Mandela University based in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. She has a PhD in Information Technology.

Her primary areas of research include Information and Cyber Security Education and Secure Software Development and as such is a key member of the Nelson Mandela University’s Centre for Research in Information and Cyber Security (CRICS). She also has a keen interest in IT Project Management, Human Computer Interaction, User Experience and Usable Security.

She has been actively involved in the IFIP Working Group 11.8 (Information Security Education) since 2005 taking on several committee positions including Vice-Chair and Secretary. As current Chair of this working group, she aims to promote Information and Cyber Security Education, Training and Awareness in academia, government and industry by encouraging collaboration and engagement amongst these key stakeholders.