MISSOULA – The philosophy at CyberMontana is that everyone, no matter their age or place in life, should be fluent in computer security.
Now one year old, this statewide initiative already counts its alumni middle school students conquering code at summer STEM camps and Montana National Guard members learning to identify cyber breaches and remedying their efforts.
“I like to say if you are in the sixth grade or older, we have something for you,” said Dianne Burke, CyberMontana’s director and a cybersecurity faculty member at the University of Montana’s Missoula College.
Funded by the Montana Legislature in 2021 and housed in Missoula College, CyberMontana provides cybersecurity awareness, training and workforce development for businesses and residents across the state.
Its work is set against a backdrop of growing worldwide cyberbreaches that can pose, at the least, annoying email phishing, and the worst, multimillion-dollar damages to business and institutions. According to IBM the average total cost of a data breach in 2020 was $3.86 million and took an average of 280 days to identify and contain.
Meanwhile, 80% of companies say they have a hard time finding and hiring security personnel according to consulting firm Gartner, and by 2029, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the cybersecurity job market will grow by more than 31%.
As the first institution in Montana to be recognized by the federal government as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, Missoula College is uniquely qualified to lead the new initiative, said Tom Gallagher, dean of Missoula College, which operates CyberMontana in coordination with faculty from other two-year colleges across the state.
“The need for trained cybersecurity professionals at all levels is absolutely critical to protect Montana’s businesses and to grow our economy,” he said, adding that the coursework offered through CyberMontana has been vetted and approved by National Security Agency through the Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity program.
In addition to degree programs in cybersecurity, CyberMontana offers on demand training for business employees featuring 20- to 30-minute training modules, professional development courses like coding bootcamps and customized cyber training, and programs for the public on subjects as diverse as password management and safely navigating Wi-Fi in public settings.
CyberMontana has launched the Montana Cyber Range, a virtual resource that allows participants a platform to practice cyber defense activities through lab exercises, simulations, and competitions from anywhere in the state.
Burke is particularly excited about several innovative programs that CyberMontana also offers – a rapid training program launching this summer for a Certificate of Technical Studies in Cybersecurity and their high school dual-enrollment program providing juniors and seniors with a three-credit online introductory course in cybersecurity. These trainings lead to both academic and industry-recognized credentials.
“We are committed to increasing the number and diversity of young people going into the pipeline for this important professional field,” Burke said. “Our hope is this dual enrollment program will be a key step toward that important goal.”
Contact: Dave Kuntz, UM director of strategic communications, 406-243-5659, firstname.lastname@example.org.