Five Ways a Baylor MBA Prepares Students to Succeed in Cybersecurity

January 13, 2023
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Baylor Professor Tim Kayworth highlights the growing value of earning an MBA with a concentration in cybersecurity from the Hankamer School of Business.

Five Ways a Baylor MBA Prepares Students to Succeed in Cybersecurity Tim KayworthTim Kayworth

When Tim Kayworth joined Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business as an assistant professor of Information Systems in 1996, cybersecurity was an afterthought in many organizations. With the advent of digital technology came meteoric growth in the profession as new dangers and vulnerabilities began to surface.

The demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals far outstrips the current supply, with more than 700,000 vacant cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. alone as of late 2022. In this environment, the opportunities for an aspiring cybersecurity leader are nearly endless.

Below, Tim shares five key ways a Baylor MBA with a concentration in cybersecurity equips students to fill in the gaps and lead with impact.

1. Treat cybersecurity as a strategic organizational function.

Even within the most tech-savvy organizations, cybersecurity was once a back-office operation, a technical safety net that failed to garner much attention from the C-suite. Then came the Internet, smartphones, cloud computing, the Internet of Things and the Big Data and analytics revolution. Today’s cybersecurity leaders are expected to contribute technical expertise to their organizations, but they must also be business-minded. To work effectively with the various parts of an organization, they need to understand how cybersecurity supports and integrates with marketing, operations, finance and other business functions. Baylor’s MBA program with a cybersecurity concentration equips students with this hybrid skillset.

Our program also prepares students to work with colleagues at the executive level to ensure that the organization’s cybersecurity receives the funding, staffing and strategic consideration it needs to protect critical assets. Without securing this buy-in, cybersecurity leaders will face an uphill battle to carry out their mission.

2. Master technical tools.

While building a career in cybersecurity requires far more than technical prowess, a strong technical foundation is a prerequisite. In one of their first courses within the cybersecurity concentration, our students take a deep dive into the technical aspects of networks and how to protect them. They are introduced to various open-source technologies, including Wireshark, NMAP, Traceroute, John the Ripper and the Social Engineering Toolkit. Then, they learn to leverage these tools for enumeration scanning, packet sniffing, network debugging, password cracking, social engineering and other cybersecurity-specific technical activities. Students not only understand how to use these technologies but also focus on how the information produced informs organizations and executives about cybersecurity and business risks.

3. Develop frameworks to identify and neutralize threats.

Digital technology is evolving at breakneck speed. A student hired to fill a cybersecurity role a year from now will encounter a different array of technologies and threats than exists today. One of the best ways we can prepare our students to remain proactive, instead of constantly putting out fires, is to teach them specific frameworks to identify and neutralize threats.

Here are several of the frameworks our students find most valuable:

  • CIA Triad (Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability): At all times, a cybersecurity leader is responsible for preventing someone from accessing data they should not access (confidentiality), protecting data from destruction or manipulation (integrity), and ensuring steady access to data (availability). Focusing on these three fundamentals helps shape priorities and build focus.
  • Data classification: This framework helps cybersecurity leaders determine the vulnerability or sensitivity of different types of data and allocate limited resources accordingly.
  • SiLK (System for Internet-level knowledge): SiLK provides a suite of tools for rapidly identifying patterns in large volumes of network traffic.

4. Guide cyber practices with effective policies and procedures.

Cybersecurity is only as strong as an organization’s weakest link. Most often, hackers bypass technology and access data through phishing and other people-focused practices. In a famous cybersecurity breach in 2013, hackers were able to steal financial data from tens of millions of Target customers by gaining access credentials from Target’s HVAC provider. The most successful cybersecurity leaders recognize that all the firewalls and intrusion detection systems in the world will fall short without building strong organizational guardrails around cyber practices. Our students learn to create and manage Security Education Training and Awareness (SETA) programs to prepare every employee for the threats they may encounter. They also learn to design sound policies and procedures around email, network access and other online activities.

5. Learn through hands-on experience.

Baylor's MBA cybersecurity concentration is designed to equip students to step into an organization and immediately identify weaknesses in a cybersecurity program, deploy technologies, design policies, procedures and SETA programs to help mitigate cyber-related risks, hire the right people and effectively engage with senior management to build a top-notch cyber security function. To accomplish this, we emphasize practical, hands-on learning in our courses. In one course, students create a comprehensive policy handbook for a sample organization. In another, they mine a real dataset to determine data breach trends and create a threat report to summarize recommendations for countermeasures. They frequently complete case studies and hear from guest speakers in the field to gain a more realistic perspective on the challenges they will encounter.

This approach to teaching the next generation of cybersecurity professionals has earned a stamp of approval by the U.S. government. Recently, Baylor was designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense by the National Security Agency and U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In light of the national shortage of professionals with cybersecurity skills, the cybersecurity degrees and concentrations that comprise Baylor’s Cybersecurity Research and Education Initiative are recognized as a vital tool for defending America’s cyberspace.

A career in cybersecurity is not for the faint of heart. It is only when defenses fail that anyone holds a press conference. But for those who are equipped with the right blend of skills, a career in cybersecurity comes with varied work, ample advancement opportunities and a high median salary. And, at a more fundamental level, it gives employees the satisfaction of keeping their organization's doors open by forming a vital wall of defense against harm.

What's Next

Are you interested in building a career in cybersecurity? Learn more about Baylor’s MBA program with a concentration in cybersecurity by clicking here or fill out the form below to speak directly with an admissions advisor.

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