U.S. Representative Julia Brownley poses with CSUCI President Richard Yao, Provost Mitch Avila, and three others while holding a check for $550,800 to be used to fund a new Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity programMarch 20, 2023—Plans can get underway for CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) to offer a new Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity, thanks to a $550,800 check presented to the University from U.S. Representative Julia Brownley.

Brownley made the formal presentation to CSUCI President Richard Yao on Tuesday, March 14 on campus in the John Spoor Broome Library.

“I’m thrilled that CSUCI is thinking strategically about how we can build a pipeline for young people in our community to enter well-paid careers in cybersecurity, which is critical to our overall national security,” Brownley said.

The funds are part of a federal FY 2023 Omnibus appropriations bill that included earmark funding for eight CSU campuses, totaling more than $8.75 million. Yao wrote a letter to the Congresswoman last April, underscoring how well-positioned CSUCI is to offer a degree in cybersecurity—a field with a tremendous need for trained professionals.

“From collaborations with Amazon Web Services to Google, CSUCI’s students in Computer Science are already receiving world-class educational opportunities,” Yao said. “With the ability to add a Cybersecurity program, we will see even more students graduating with a degree that opens the door to careers in lucrative professions that support the public good—and with the knowledge and skills to protect against industry and personal technological threats.”

A longtime supporter of CSUCI, Brownley is aware of the danger that cyber criminals pose at local, national and international levels.

“As a member of Congress, I have participated in briefings with national security experts to discuss the constant and daily threats that cyber attackers pose to our public infrastructure and to our national security,” Brownley said, after taking the podium during an on-campus presentation ceremony. “From China to North Korea to Russia to hostile non-state actors, there are significant cybersecurity threats to our water systems, electric grid, banking systems, and businesses in all sizes of industry.”

Provost Mitch Avila took the podium at Tuesday’s check presentation to quote a 2022 study conducted by the FBI showing that today’s cyber landscapes present ample opportunity for cybercriminals to target US networks, attack critical infrastructure, hold our money and data for ransom, and threaten national security.

Avila read from an annual cybersecurity crime report just released by the FBI indicating that in 2022 there were over half a million victims of cybercrime, with about $10 billion lost as a result.

“The Biden administration has asked Congress for over 26 billion dollars in funding for cybersecurity for the coming year,” Avila said, adding that CSUCI is “working to build out degree programs for our graduates to work in this important field.”

CSUCI already offers a minor in Cybersecurity, so the Computer Science faculty is exceptionally well-qualified to develop the BS in Cybersecurity.

Computer Science Program Chair and Professor of Computer Science Michael Soltys has long been involved in cybersecurity programs, initiatives, and educational opportunities. Soltys has served on Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin’s Cybersecurity Advisory Board, the Governor’s Cybersecurity Task Force, and has used his connections with Ventura’s District Attorney Cybersecurity Task Force to create collaborations between the taskforce and CSUCI.

“I think we are well positioned to build on what we already have,” Soltys said. “We have a longstanding relationship with the U.S. Navy, and they hire about half of our graduates with cybersecurity minors every year. And there is a lot of information technology industry here, a lot of defense contractors. Everybody needs cybersecurity experts.”

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Reza Abdolee is an example of a faculty member already teaching cybersecurity classes.

“We are improving our Cybersecurity minor and adding more specialized and up-to-date courses in this area,” Abdolee said. “One of the courses we are planning to add is ‘Cybersecurity Risks and Ethical Hacking.’ Students will learn how hackers and cybercriminals think. In order to defend our systems against cyberattacks, we need to understand their strategies and mindset.”

The timeline for adding the major is to be determined, but the funding enables the preliminary work to get underway.

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