Dr. Petter Lovaas, who directs Niagara University’s M.S. in information security and digital forensics program, was invited by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer to give his perspective when the senator was in Buffalo announcing his support for legislation to end robo calls.

By 2021, cybercrime is predicted to cost the world $6 trillion annually, according to Cybersecurity Ventures, the world’s leading researcher for the global cyber economy. However, the organization also predicts that there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions by that same year. Within Western New York, the demand for cybersecurity talent is expected to grow 36.8 percent (2012-2022), as projected by the New York State Department of Labor.

To respond to the crucial need for specialized information security personnel, Niagara University has enhanced its focus on the cybersecurity industry with the launch of a master’s degree program in information security and digital forensics and the establishment of a cybersecurity lab, supported by a grant from Sen. Robert Ortt. The university also recently hosted a forum featuring several of the region’s most prominent experts, who discussed the cybersecurity threat landscape that presently looms over numerous industries, such as banking, education, foodservice, government, healthcare, and telecommunications.

Leading the M.S. in information security and digital forensics program is Dr. Petter Lovaas, a cybersecurity expert who was recently invited by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer to give his perspective when the senator was in Buffalo announcing his support for legislation to end robo calls.

“One of the key components to improving information security is the ability to find qualified employees with a solid understanding of this relatively new area of vulnerability,” Dr. Lovass said. “It is imperative for universities to develop and sustain academic programs that prepare information security specialists to defend against information breaches.”

Niagara students become proficient in areas including network security, ethical hacking, data privacy, and modern cryptography, gaining hands-on experience in the cybersecurity lab, which is equipped with specialized software in computer and mobile forensics and operates on a separate server. They also conduct research and have presented their findings at the statewide Annual Symposium on Information Assurance. Graduates can go on to become certified as information systems security management professionals, and have found employment with the FBI, the NSA, and local companies, including M&T Bank.

In May, David Stender, senior vice president and chief security officer at M&T Bank, gave the keynote address at Niagara University’s inaugural Cybersecurity Forum, sharing the knowledge he gained over his more than 30 years of government, military, and business experience developing, implementing, and leading full-scope security programs, including physical security, information security, financial crimes, and risk, on a global scale. A panel discussion followed, featuring Jeffrey Crimmins, chief information officer and chief security officer at Freed Maxick CPAs/DataSure 24; Renita DiStefano, vice president of information technology/chief information officer at Seneca Gaming Corp.; Peter Herbsman, computer scientist with the FBI Buffalo's Cyber Task Force; Scott Morris, chief information security officer at BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York; and Anthony Sgroi, director of cybersecurity operations at M&T Bank.

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