By SHELBY MERTENS
Daily News-Record 12/19/18
HARRISONBURG — Starting next year, James Madison University will offer a new cybersecurity noncredit professional development certificate program for business leaders who want to learn how to better protect company and consumer data.
The 20-hour introductory course consists of two full days of class in Harrisonburg and Roanoke, and two morning online sessions.
“It’s designed for working professionals to build their confidence around cybersecurity strategy,” said Kai Degner, director of professional development of JMU Outreach and Engagement. “The concept is that there are people who have found themselves in a leadership position in their companies and are responsible for information security but do not have training in it. This is a way to give them an overview to help inform their decision- making.”
The first full day class on Feb. 4 will be held at the Ice House in downtown Harrisonburg, and the first online session will be held on Feb. 7 from 9 to 11 a.m. The next full day class is scheduled for Feb. 11 at the Roanoke Higher Education Center, and the final online session will be the morning of Feb. 14. Registration is $1,350.
Participants will learn about different cybersecurity services, how to balance risk with investments required to protect data and how to identify where data is vulnerable, according to Degner.
They’ll also learn tech jargon, nontechnical solutions and ways to encourage employees to make decisions that keep information protected, he said.
Numerous data breaches at major companies have left millions of consumers vulnerable and their personal information at risk.
The biggest data breach occurred when Yahoo reported in 2017 that 3 billion of its users were impacted by a data hack in 2013. Ebay, Target, Uber, JP Morgan Chase, Anthem and Equifax have all experienced large data breaches.
As hackers get smarter, cybersecurity training is needed now more than ever.
“It’s hard to pick up a newspaper and not read about cybersecurity threats or data breaches,” Degner said. “It’s more and more important for business professionals and leaders to understand the basics of protecting their company and customer data. We are at a point where virtually all business leadership needs to think about protecting data and information when they make strategy decisions.”
The course curriculum was developed from market research conducted in partnership with the Shenandoah Valley Technology Council, the Roanoke Higher Education Center and 4-VA, a collaborative initiative between six Virginia universities, which funded the professional development certificate program through a grant.
Technology users and creators in the Valley were asked for their feedback on what information and topics would be beneficial in the course. Nicky Swayne, the CEO of the Shenandoah Valley Technology Council, saw there was a need for more cybersecurity education.
“I knew this was going to be a need for the community and there would be people who would want to take the class,” she said.
The program also provides opportunities for local professionals to connect.
“Connections in the technology community is really important,” Swayne said. “Knowing one another is a fantastic resource.”
The certificate program does not count toward an undergraduate or graduate degree, but for those interested in more advanced training, JMU does offer degree programs with relevant coursework.
Degner said the certificate program will be offered again, tentatively in April.