Cyber security: A growing industry in internet age

Members of CSUN’s Alumni Association convened on Thursday evening in the USU’s Grand Salon for a panel on cyber security, information systems and policy-making with regards to technology.

The discussion was headed by four alumni, all of whom have gone on to pursue careers in cyber security and information systems since graduating from Cal State Northridge.

Individuals in the field concern themselves with protecting both the integrity and security of computer networks. In layman’s terms, cyber security specialists help defend systems from being hacked.

“We live in a world where our online education programs, the opportunities that our students have to purchase tickets, go to a show; their medical records…” said moderator Dean S.K. Ramesh of CSUN’s College of Engineering and Computer Science. “All of those are accessible and yet we have an incredible responsibility to protect this information.”

The four engaged in a Q&A with the moderator, who asked them to illustrate their thoughts on the future of information technology and cyber security, particularly in the wake of events such as the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack.

Armen Keshishian, who graduated in 1997, was one of the alumni on the panel. Keshishian is employed as a consultant specialist in Kaiser Permanente’s cyber security department.

“[The field] is very, very busy and there’s a lot of opportunity,” said Keshishian. “It’s definitely a growing industry.”

Colleen Bendall, who currently works as a cyber security tech manager for Bank of America, was another member of the panel.

Bendall stressed the importance of the field of cyber security, especially given this day and age.

“I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon,” said Bendall. “Anybody who has teenage children — or knows teenage kids — knows we’re so connected in every single thing we do. We put out – this generation especially – so much personal information about ourselves. It’s really scary. [Our information] is extremely vulnerable.”

The alumni also answered questions related to the value of advanced degrees and how CSUN helped them in the long-run.

Don Thomas, a 1994 graduate, related to the audience the importance of pursuing one’s interests, emphasizing the benefit of beginning early.

“Don’t wait,” said Thomas. “If you want to study something you’re really interested in, do it.”

Brian Meadows, an in-service engineering agent for the United States Navy, spoke of his time at CSUN with admiration.

“As I went through the degree program, I started to become more interested in computers,” said Meadows. “I did not plan to really go into cyber security or network engineering. I think the degree program [at CSUN] really set me on that path.”

Bendall was also thankful for her studies at Cal State Northridge.

“CSUN was an amazing experience. There was amazing guidance and my professors were fabulous,” said Bendall. “It changed my life.”

The panel ended with questions from the audience, during which students asked the four about their experiences in the field and how they see it moving forward considering the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack and recent cases of identity theft coming from businesses such as Target and Home Depot.

“Cyber security is on the rise,” said Keshishian. “I think it’s best to always think about identity theft. It’s important to protect our identity from a personal perspective. These large companies should be held responsible [for protecting this data.] It’s very important and definitely a growing industry.”