Staying safe and secure: how Prince Sultan University’s cybersecurity transformation benefits students and society

In an increasingly digital world, the knowledge and application of cybersecurity are paramount. Students at Prince Sultan University have the chance to study a specialised track or a master’s in cybersecurity at an institution truly committed to the field

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, a strategic framework designed to reduce the country’s dependence on oil and diversify the economy, places great importance on digital transformation, including cybersecurity. The Global Cybersecurity Index 2020, a measure of the commitment of individual countries to cybersecurity, ranked Saudi Arabia second in the world, an impressive jump from its 2017 rank of 46.

Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Middle East faced a considerable increase in attempted cyberattacks, with Saudi Arabia the second-most targeted country, according to global cybersecurity firm Kaspersky. This is something that Fahad Alruwaili, associate professor and director of the College of Computer and Information Sciences at Prince Sultan University (PSU) echoes: “Cybersecurity and cyberthreats are growing; it’s very important to establish a foundation of nationals that can protect the country. This foundation goes into the rhythm of education, training and research.”

As well as the specialised master’s in cybersecurity, the first in Saudi Arabia, PSU is ensuring that cybersecurity is integrated into all of its computer science degrees, offering a minor in cybersecurity for undergraduate students that has proved popular. The university is currently working with the Saudi Ministry of Education to design a full bachelor’s in cybersecurity, and it has gained approval for a doctorate programme with a focus on cybersecurity.

“We are improving our curriculum and our programmes to really match the industry’s needs,” Alruwaili says. “As you can see, it’s evolving very rapidly. Therefore, you need to update your programme and course content to match what’s required in the field.”

A recent study by LinkedIn shows that jobs in cybersecurity are the fastest growing in Saudi Arabia, with new government policies, digitisation and the legacy of the pandemic all playing a part. PSU gives students the opportunity to work in industry during their programmes, allowing them to gain valuable real-world business experience alongside the academic knowledge needed to succeed.

The university is home to the Center of Excellence in Cybersecurity. Established two years ago, the Cybex Centre not only conducts research in the field but also provides consultation services. “We provide services establishing cybersecurity management systems in companies where they need help,” says Mohamed El-Affendi, professor of computer and information sciences at PSU. “Our Security Operations Centre provides live services to companies that cannot afford to establish the level of security that is required by the government.”

PSU is forward-thinking when it comes to cybersecurity, with equal focus on academia and practical, industry applications. Often working in collaboration with other institutions and international agencies, the extent of PSU’s expertise in the area stretches beyond the classroom. “Now we’re receiving requests from certain organisations, such as the military, to establish degrees in security for their staff, and that is already being considered by the university,” says El-Affendi. “The dynamic nature of the university is very visible.”

See original post at Times Higher Education Website