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Academic programs seen to help address workforce gap in cybersecurity sector

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By Aubrey Rose A. Inosante

CYBERSECURITY electives offered in universities and colleges are not enough to fill the lack of experts in the field in the Philippines, industry officials said.

“We have not been able to produce a lot [for our] workforce because our academe does not provide degrees in cybersecurity. Instead, what they are doing is offering it as an elective,” Allan S. Cabanlong, Regional Director for Southeast Asia at Global Forum on Cyber Expertise, said in a Viber message.

Certification bodies like the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Certified Ethical Hacker Certification, Computer Forensics and Security Institute, and more drove the number of sector professionals, he said.

However, certification, which can be obtained in a few weeks, does not guarantee a student will possess operation knowledge, he added.

The demand for cybersecurity practitioners is at an all-time high amid rising online attacks, with recent schemes even targeting government agencies.

According to the National Association of Data Protection Officers of the Philippines, about 180,000 professionals are needed in the country.

“Singapore has about 2,000 cybersecurity professionals, and the Philippines has about 200. And of the 200, 80 percent of that are working abroad,” said Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Secretary Ivan John Uy earlier said.

Mr. Cabanlong said an ideal setup for Philippine schools offering cybersecurity programs is to have partnerships with foreign academic institutions and private firms for on-the-job training,

“If someone wants to offer cybersecurity — whether it’s cybercrime investigation, network security, cyber defense, or cyber diplomacy — the basics of it or the advanced part of it, or the executive courses, they should already have guidelines,” he said.

Mr. Cabanlong was a former DICT assistant secretary. During his tenure, the agency forged a partnership with AMA University in 2018 to offer a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity.

Among other educational institutions offering are BS Computer Science elective in Cybersecurity at the Ateneo Davao University, St. Paul University, Mapua, and a Masters in Cybersecurity at Holy Angels University.

University of the East (UE) Caloocan recently announced it will offer a four-year BS Criminology program with specialized cybersecurity courses.

Michelle Concepcion, dean at the UE College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), said the university has a pool of information technology (IT) and criminology experts equipped to teach its cybersecurity and criminology courses for the program.

“The university has eight IT laboratory classrooms equipped with computers and software apps for cybersecurity specialization courses such as cyberspace and cybersecurity, information assurance and security, network and data communication protocols, digital forensics, machine learning in security, and security penetration testing and audit,” Ms. Concepcion said in a Viber message.

UE targets to get 100 to 200 enrollees for the degree’s pilot academic year, she said.

UE CAS Caloocan aims to produce graduates who are competent and will uphold strong ethical standards in delivering services including crime prevention, detection, investigation, law enforcement, public safety, custody, offender rehabilitation, and criminological research, she added.

Digital Pinoys National Campaigner Ronald B. Gustilo however noted that these specialized courses are mostly in private institutions and relatively have high tuition fees.

“The government needs to allocate funds to state colleges and universities (SUCs) so that they will be able to offer cybersecurity and information technology courses. The state should improve the facilities of SUCs and hire professionals who will teach students,” he said.

ICT ACADEMYUnder the National Cybersecurity Plan, setting up an ICT academy and a Cybersecurity Center of Excellence is one of the strategies to produce more cybersecurity experts.

The DICT targets to produce 300,000 cybersecurity professionals by 2028.

DICT Undersecretary for Infostructure Management, Cybersecurity, and Upskilling Jeffrey Ian Dy said these facilities are targeted to be established informally within the year.

“However, institutionalizing an academy needs an enabling law. We will advocate for its establishment as part of the cybersecurity bills pending in Congress,” he said in Viber message.

The agency provides partial scholarships and offers online and computer-based training for students. It recently gave out 500 Google Cybersecurity Certifications provided through the agency’s learning management system, Mr. Dy said.

“With Microsoft, we have an agreement on sharing of intelligence and training of our National Security Operations Center personnel,” he added.

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