Skip to main content

Greenville Business Magazine

Clemson Ramps Up Cybersecurity Offerings To Meet Growing Need In Charleston Area

Charleston’s technology industry is growing like sea oats on a sand dune and could soon sprout fresh sprigs, as Clemson University plants the seeds for new cybersecurity initiatives at its campus overlooking the Cooper River.

Two faculty members, Harlan Russell and Kelly Caine, are relocating to the Charleston area for a year to take the lead in creating the initiatives, which will be offered at the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center in North Charleston.

Clemson is continuing to expand its cybersecurity offerings as more vital infrastructure from the electrical grid to transportation go online and become vulnerable to attack.

The cost of cybercrime worldwide is expected to grow from $3 trillion a year in 2015 to $6 trillion in 2021, according to a December report by Cybersecurity Ventures.

Meanwhile, a growing body of evidence is raising concerns about a shortage of cybersecurity professionals. The United States has 313,735 cybersecurity job openings, including 3,380 in South Carolina, according to Cyber Seek.

Globally, the number of cybersecurity job openings is expected to hit 3.5 million by 2021, according to a 2017 report by Cybersecurity Ventures.

While in the early stages, Clemson’s plans call for a seminar, industry workshops, and a human-centered cybersecurity class offered in North Charleston for the first time. Russell and Caine are not planning to create new degree programs but contribute to ones already available.

Clemson offers 11 master’s programs and four Ph.D. programs in North Charleston, most aimed at working professionals who want to advance their careers, which usually means higher salaries.

Randy Collins, who is interim associate vice president for the Lowcountry, said Russell and Caine will reach out to Charleston area tech leaders and the faculty on Clemson’s main campus to help shape the new initiatives.

“We’re moving quickly to help fill a growing demand for cybersecurity professionals,” Collins said. “The Charleston area, with its fast-growing tech sector, is fertile ground to expand our cybersecurity offerings in collaboration with faculty on the main campus.”

Charleston-area students who want to study cybersecurity with Clemson can choose from four degree paths. They can seek a Master of Science in computer science, computer engineering, or electrical engineering, with an emphasis on cybersecurity. Or they can pursue a Master of Engineering in electrical engineering with an emphasis on cybersecurity.

Students who enroll should hold bachelor’s degrees in computer science, computer engineering, electrical engineering, or a related field.

Russell and Caine will add to the faculty already on site at the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center, which opened in fall 2016.

Russell is an associate professor and the graduate program coordinator in the Holcombe Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Caine is a Dean’s Associate professor in the Human-Centered Computing Division of the School of Computing.

Russell relocated to the Charleston area as soon as the 2018-19 academic year ended to support students taking courses over the summer.

Another one of his first tasks is to plan a seminar that would cover topics that most interest students and faculty.

He is also exploring the potential for new courses. One could focus on computing basics, such as programming and operating systems, and would serve as a refresher for students who are returning to the classroom after several years away.

Russell also plans to work with faculty to determine the need for a course that combines computer networking, software defined networking and cyber-physical security for power systems.

“We are seeing great interest to improve capabilities of the cybersecurity workforce in the Charleston area and to better address cybersecurity concerns worldwide,” Russell said. “Clemson is well positioned to offer programs that help meet workforce needs in cybersecurity. Our North Charleston location is a well-established campus, and the area’s growing tech sector gives us a expanding market of potential students.”

Caine plans to relocate to the Charleston area in August. She will for the first time offer her course, Usable Privacy and Security, at the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center. The course focuses on human-factors aspects of cybersecurity, she said.

“Up to 25 percent of cybersecurity issues can be traced to poor system usability,” Caine said. “My course teaches students to design easy-to-use systems that are therefore more secure.”

Caine also plans to host at least one workshop for industry representatives to learn about the often-overlooked issues in human-centered cybersecurity.

“I want to reach out to industry folks who are interested in cybersecurity in the area so that I can better understand their needs for graduates and what kind of problems they are working on,” she said. “It will be mutually beneficial. I’ll be learning from them, and they’ll be learning from me.”

Further, she plans to assemble a team of faculty members, some based in North Charleston and some and on Clemson’s main campus, to propose a research project and seek funding from the National Science Foundation.

The focus of the research will build on the deep expertise of the team, she said.

The Zucker Family Graduate Education Center is an educational building at the Clemson University Restoration Institute, or CURI, in North Charleston. The campus sits on a former naval yard with sweeping views of the Cooper River.