Photo Illustration/ Katy Barnard

When computer engineering professor Bruce DeBruhl sees students pass by on their phones, or sees them on their computers in class, he doesn’t just see a text or a Facebook update, he sees valuable information that can easily be compromised.

“The devices that are always on and always collecting our data are a really interesting change to large-scale culture,” DeBruhl said. “They’re interacting with our cars. They’re interacting with our homes. They’re interacting with our lights, our washing machines and our fridges. They’re just so encompassing, and I don’t think we consider the privacy and security implications that come with these connections nearly enough.”

The technological field and connectivity of our society have created a booming cybersecurity industry. There is a massive demand for employees, and Cal Poly is trying to supply that demand with a new cybersecurity center, new professors and new classes.

In 2014, the dedication of the Cal Poly-Northrop Grumman Cyber Lab took place with the goal of training students in encryption, malware, hacking and fighting cyber terrorism among other things. The lab was the first of its kind, and with the way that technology is constantly evolving, it will likely not be the last.

Companies like Northrop Grumman, which is an American global aerospace and defense technology company, are massive. According to University Relations Specialist for Northrop Grumman Benjamin Chulaluxsiriboon, large companies are on the prowl for new recruits in the field of cybersecurity.

Technology is not only becoming more advanced, it is also becoming more widespread. With this rapid expansion comes susceptibility to attack, and Cal Poly users have been the recent victims, according to an email from Cal Poly’s Information Technology Services.

“With every (piece of technology), there’s a happy medium; there’s good and bad,” Chief Information Security Officer for Mindbody Michael Hanson said. “For every security person, there’s the ethical hacker and the unethical hacker. There’s the good and the bad. What companies are faced with now is active defense.”

Both companies and individuals need to be aware of the hackers that exist in today’s society. Without a defense plan, and without hackers that are trained to keep these groups safe, endless aspects of our lives could be affected.

The public’s information is vulnerable. Cyber attacks are becoming more widespread. In March 2015, up to 11 million customer’s information was affected when Primera Blue Cross was hacked. The breach exposed members’ names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, mailing and email addresses, phone numbers and bank account information, according to a report filed by the New York Times.

That same report notes that in October 2014, Staples was hacked and 1.16 million credit cards were compromised; in September of that same year, Home Depot was hacked, compromising 56 million credit cards. Cyber attacks are costing businesses $400-500 billion a year, according to Forbes.

It is vital for our society to understand the ramifications of the technology that we’ve implemented into our everyday lives.

“Some of the concerns that we all need to have from a cybersecurity perspective really involve our everyday lives,” Vice President of Cyber Programs at Raytheon Jeff Snyder said. “Cybersecurity related to systems that we rely on every day is becoming increasingly important.”

As technology becomes more of an integral part of our lives, individuals will rely heavier on cybersecurity to stay safe. That’s part of the reason why programs like those offered at Cal Poly are so critical. The cybersecurity program at Cal Poly has grown from two courses to a new curriculum of five courses.

Northrop Grumman currently has 70,000 employees; Raytheon has more than 61,000 employees. The job market for cybersecurity is only growing. The U.S. government has spent $100 billion on cybersecurity over the past decade and has $14 billion budgeted for this year alone. The worldwide security market is also estimated to grow from $75 billion in 2015 to $170 billion by 2020.

Even if one doesn’t have a degree in computer science, the information that is taught in cybersecurity classes is a worthwhile skill, according to Chuck McGregor, director of cybersecurity operations at Parsons.

“Even if your major doesn’t deal with cybersecurity, there’s a lot of value in being able to have that in your background,” McGregor said.

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