Skip to main content

As reported in a recent Information Age article, the global cost of cybercrime could reach $2 trillion by 2019. This highlights the importance of ensuring that computer science students graduate with basic proficiency in cybersecurity. To address this critical need, Professor Sameer Patil at Indiana University (IU) and UCI’s Informatics Professor Hadar Ziv are collaborating to develop new learning modules with funding from their National Science Foundation grant, “Incorporating Sociotechnical Cybersecurity Learning Within Undergraduate Capstone Courses.”

The grant is part of the NSF Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) program and one of 13 proposals accepted within the Division of Graduate Education (DGE).

“Typical computing curricula do not require any courses in cybersecurity,” Patil and Ziv explain in the grant. “As a result, a majority of students graduate without any proficiency in cybersecurity relevant to the systems they will develop and use when they join the workforce.” Furthermore, although cybersecurity electives often cover technical topics, they fail to address how cybersecurity is influenced by social factors.

“A lot of privacy or security issues that we see in the real world arise because social nuance, user experience, and regulatory compliance have not been taken into account,” says Patil. “We want to cover privacy and security not purely from a technical standpoint, but also help students understand how they are connected with the contextual factors, such as norms and expectations, user characteristics, cultural practices, laws and regulations, and more.”

The two researchers, both affiliated with UCI’s Institute for Software Research (ISR), aim to develop, deliver and evaluate a suite of sociotechnical cybersecurity learning modules, which they’ll then make openly available to other educations and institutions.

The modules will be used in informatics capstone courses at UCI this year and in courses at IU during the 2019-20 school year. The modules will then be assessed to gain a better understanding of how students can develop sociotechnical cybersecurity proficiency as a part of their capstone experience. Given that capstone courses are typically a graduation requirement, this could have a transformative effect as more computing students enter the workforce with core cybersecurity knowledge.

“I am excited about this work and its larger social and political implications,” says Ziv. “Designing for better privacy, security, and cybersecurity is one of the hottest topics in software right now, and our objectives include teaching and educating the next generation of designers in these matters.”

Shani Murray