Once a field of self-taught hackers, cybersecurity education shifts to universities

May 4, 2015

Joe Uchill originally published on 4-22-15

Over the past year, colleges and universities across the country have received millions in funding from the government and foundations to launch cybersecurity initiatives. The result is a stark change for an industry made up of programmers who have often learned by trial and error.

For years, the best way to learn about your computer was to take a screwdriver it.

That’s how Jon Miller learned cybersecurity: trial and error, advice from friends, and constant tinkering. In the 1980s and early 1990s, that’s how everyone else did it, too. Network security was self-taught in basements and bedrooms. And it worked pretty well. Without formal training, Mr. Miller worked his way into a role as vice president of strategy at the security firm Cylance. He’s lectured at colleges – without ever taking a class in one.

“I learned from getting new hardware and problem solving,” says Miller. “But if colleges had offered courses in security at that high level, I would have taken them.”

There's a sea change occurring in how information security is taught. Millions of dollars are pouring into universities to launch cybersecurity programs. While cybersecurity is still an industry that celebrates self-taught outsiders and hackers working for good, the future is sure to bring more engineers and specialists trained in the classroom.