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Back up the future!

Sierra College offers renowned cyber defense program

by Jennifer Nobles

It’s no shock that computers and other such devices have become a huge part of human life—from running businesses to managing households to keeping in touch with loved ones, the internet has instilled itself into modern life as we know it. 

But what happens when your computer (or device) or its systems fail you, to no fault of your own? Sadly cyber-attacks in the guise of ransomware are becoming more and more common, affecting everyone from city governments to mom-and-pop stores. 

(Briefly, ransomware is a type of malicious software that infects a computer and restricts user access until a ransom is paid to unlock it, often in the form of cryptocurrency. The largest noted ransom chimed in at an exorbitant $70 million.)  

Enter cybersecurity. Now a necessity, the protection of one’s online presence is also spurring an entirely new industry in the form of cyber defense, one of the many programs offered at Sierra College. 

Alex Torres knows a thing or two about cyber defense—having spent over 20 years in information security he now is a professor at Sierra College and wants people not only to know about the inherent risks but also of the potential career opportunities in the field as demand grows. Just ask him about ransomware. 

“It takes roughly three seconds for it to happen,” said Torres. “It’s as easy as clicking a button [or] installing a USB, you can get ransomware. Even going to a [web]site.” 

The goal of Sierra College’s Cyber Defense Center is to prepare its students to meet the increasing demand for cybersecurity professionals to keep businesses and the nation safe. 

The program, according to Torres, is designed to employ students with the knowledge on how to keep sensitive information secure while providing much-needed job skills. 

With an average downtime of 23 days for a business who has been violated on the cyber level, the cost of ransomware is for many an exceptional obstacle to overcome. 

“Many businesses can’t weather that storm. It can shut businesses down,” Torres said. “It’s been around for years and it seems like it is getting stronger.” 

Additionally, said Torres, the world of cyber security is becoming exponentially relevant, and with accreditations from the United States Department of Security and the National Security Agency, Sierra College’s programs are offering a chance to provide a future of web-based protection. 

Torres also said that his advice to both individuals and businesses alike is relatively simple: “Be vigilant. It’s sad that we have to live in that type of environment, but you’re talking about the protection of yourself, of your family, of your businesses…everywhere you go, everywhere you click, you have to ensure that you visit those things with that mindset of ‘it could be the bad guy at the other end.” 

For more information on Sierra College’s Cyber Defense Center please visit academics.sierracollege.edu/cyber-defense-center. 

Jennifer Nobles is a freelance writer based in her hometown of Nevada City. She can be reached at jenkrisnobles@gmail.com

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