An interest in problem-solving inspired Dr. Petter Lovaas to pursue a career in cybersecurity. After earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota-Crookston, and his master’s degree and Ph.D. from Dakota State University, he worked as a security consultant in the banking and financial industries. Over the past several years, he has applied his expertise to developing a cutting-edge master’s degree program in information security and digital forensics at Niagara University that prepares students for cybersecurity careers in tech companies, banks and financial institutions, and healthcare and government agencies. Students also gain the knowledge they need to become Certified Information Systems Security Management Professionals.

While the program was initially developed for Niagara’s Lewiston campus, the university began offering it in Vaughan under consent by the Minister of Colleges and Universities in 2020. The 36-hour program provides students with rigorous, advanced study in the areas of cybersecurity and digital forensics, utilizing professional applications in computer and mobile forensics. Hands-on training gives students a technical understanding of network security, ethical hacking, and privacy.

“The thing with cybersecurity that a lot of people don’t realize is that it doesn’t change depending on where you are,” Lovaas said. “Cybersecurity is cybersecurity in the U.S., in Canada, in Europe. There are some differences between regulatory requirements, but the knowledge remains the same.”

In 2022, the program was accepted into the United States Cyber Command's Academic Engagement Network. As part of the AEN, Niagara students have access to communications and information regarding challenges in the cybersecurity space and potential impacts, invitations to USCYBERCOM webinars and consortiums, and access to guest lecturers from USCYBERCOM.

Lovaas, who also serves as Niagara’s chief information security officer and chair of cybersecurity and operations, has presented his research at national and international conferences and published articles in information technology journals. He enjoys working with students to hone their own specific research interests and is working on projects on risk management, IT auditing and forensics.

As a graduate of a National Security Agency-designated university, one of Lovaas’ goals is to obtain that premier designation for Niagara’s MS ISDF program, which he expects to achieve within the next year.

“This greatly benefits our students, as it relates to the job market as well as ensues that our curriculum includes what it needs for them to become successful cybersecurity professionals,” Lovaas said.

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