As cyberattacks on businesses increase, UCF students learn to stop them

UCF launches Cyber Security and Privacy Master’s Degree program

ORLANDO, Fla. – When the Colonial petroleum pipeline was cyberattacked, the effect on the American consumer was almost immediate as gas prices shot up and drivers scrambled to get gasoline.

The company that operates the main gasoline artery along the east coast shut down the pipeline after hackers broke in virtually and stole internal information, holding it for ransom in what’s known as a ransomware attack.

Reportedly, Colonial paid hackers $4.4 millions to return the company’s data.

Earlier this year, hackers accessed the computer systems at an Oldsmar, Florida water treatment facility near Tampa and increased the sodium hydroxide in the water by more than 100 times. Workers quickly noticed and decreased levels.

And in 2019, two Florida cities each paid hackers more than a million dollars to unlock their city hall computer networks.

UCF Computer Science Professor Dr. Yan Solihin said the frequency and scale of cyberattacks are increasing at an alarming rate.

“We live in a dangerous world in which cyber attacks are increasing in quantity and how they impact our daily lives,” Solihin said.

Solihin was hired by UCF in 2018 to address the growing problem. He believes hackers far outnumber the people qualified to protect against the hacks so it keeps happening.

“Just in Florida we have 21,000 openings in cybersecurity,” Solihin said. “It’s not five years from now or 40 years from now when we start producing our graduates, but right now, today, it’s 21,000 jobs.

This fall, UCF will offer its new Cyber Security and Privacy Master’s Degree program.

Michael Troisi is one of the first students to be accepted into the program. He was on the Hack@UCF club team that just took first place against 240 prestigious colleges.

“Through high school it was a strong hobby of mine and when I got to UCF I decided to pursue a degree in exactly that,” Troisi said.

While at UCF, Troisi also works for a private company, already working in cybersecurity. He is only 22 years old.

“During this last semester, I was able to work full time and also push through these extracurriculars at UCF,” Troisi said.

When Troisi graduates with his Master’s degree, he’ll have plenty of opportunities from which to choose.

There are 3 million cybersecurity job openings around the world, according to UCF. Cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing industries, thanks largely to companies that have not upgraded their computer systems and networks, leaving them vulnerable.

Solihin expects to accept around 30 students for the Master’s program this year and that number will continue to grow ever year. Already he has more applicants than he has spots.

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.