Editorial Team

In today’s digital world, the vulnerability of digital borders is the most critical and vital security threat a country can face. Given the fact that this attack on our digital infrastructure can originate from any individual, organisation or rogue nations that could bring the nation to its knees without a single drop of bloodshed with little or no advance warning. The nature and ubiquity of this threat make self-reliance in cybersecurity and trained cybersecurity professionals or digital soldiers highest priority for any nation’s defence systems. To address this need and to meet the shortfall in trained and skilled cybersecurity personnel in the country, the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT-K) is first to introduce three new master’s programs in Cybersecurity in addition to a dedicated centre for cybersecurity. These programs are designed to address this need by ensuring the training of dedicated and highly skilled manpower furthering and accelerating the nations march towards a Digital India.

The Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE), IIT-K would offer the three courses, M Tech, MS by Research, and BT-MT Dual Degree in Cybersecurity from August 2021. The programs would start with a limited number of seats with plans to gradually scale up in size and scope. The initiative for launching the three courses in Cybersecurity was taken by Prof. Manindra Agrawal and Prof. Sandeep K. Shukla from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Admissions for the courses will commence during the April-May 2021 cycle.

The MTech program in Cyber Security will equip students with skills necessary to be successful in roles such as VAPT (Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing) engineers, Security center analysts, CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) engineers, Cybersecurity tool developers and other roles that involve protecting systems against the threat of attacks by malicious actors. The MS by Research program is designed to train Cybersecurity researchers, Technology developers, Cybersecurity strategists, and top-level Cybersecurity policy designers. An option for BT-MT dual degree students is proposed that will enable them to specialize in Cybersecurity.

Prof. Abhay Krandikar, Director IIT Kanpur, said, “In the world of Digital Nomads (especially after Covid19) and Gig Economy, there has been a significant shift to the cloud as almost everyone who is involved in a productive activity has had to go online and use digital devices. This shift means there are millions of new netizens and organizations that are potentially vulnerable to sophisticated cybercrime. We have timed these Masters programs to ensure that we start producing cyber warriors of the future who can defend not only national boundaries but also make a mark internationally.

Our vision resonates with Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision – “I dream of a Digital India where cybersecurity becomes an integral part of our national security.” And we are happy that we are able to do our bit in this direction”.

Dr Radhakrishnan K Koppillil, Chairman BoG, IIT Kanpur added, “I was very happy to help to approve these Masters programs and believe that we at IIT Kanpur could not have timed it any better. The need for cyber warriors and cyber defenders is now felt more keenly . IIT Kanpur has always led the innovation in education from the front and this is just another example of the same”.

The initial intake to the MTech program in Cyber Security will be limited to 15 students through GATE/industry sponsorship and 10 students from Defence and other strategic government bodies to address the need in beefing up the cybersecurity and cyber-defence workforce in the government. The MS by Research in Cybersecurity program will accept 10 students through GATE and industry sponsorship and 5 students from Defence and other Government agencies. The BT-MT dual program is only open to the IIT-Kanpur Computer Science and Engineering BTech students who want to opt for a BTech-MTech dual degree by completing additional credits to earn a master’s degree. These numbers include the necessary percentage of reserved seats from various reserved categories as per the extant laws.

Prof. Manindra Agarwal, Department of CSE, IIT Kanpur said “The last years have seen our department offering quite a few courses in Cybersecurity related subjects. Several faculty members in the department are also engaged in research projects related to cybersecurity. Our faculty members have also been approached by various multinational companies, requesting students as interns and future employees who could work in the areas of micro-architecture security, hardware security, secure machine learning and related areas. The present situation is that education and training institutions have found it difficult to keep pace with the growing need for skilled cybersecurity talent. NASSCOM has indicated that rise in cyberattacks along with data protection and privacy laws will lead to a US$35 billion revenue opportunity and job opportunities for millions of Indian professionals by the year 2025. With the department achieving a critical mass in terms of faculty strength to create new degree programs specializing in cybersecurity, we decided that this was the appropriate time to introduce new programs in Cybersecurity.”

IIT Kanpur’s C3i Center funded by the SERB (Science and Engineering Research Board) is India’s first cyber security research and education centre in the field of cybersecurity of critical infrastructure. Further, the C3i Hub (The Technology Innovation Hub funded by DST’s National Mission on Cyber Physical systems) established at IIT Kanpur adds additional strength to the research, education, start up ecosystem, and industrial collaboration in the field of cyber security unparalleled in India at the time. The students of these new degree programs will get the opportunity to train at these state-of-the-art facilities.

Prof. Sandeep K Shukla, Department of CSE, IIT Kanpur, added, “By 2022, the global cybersecurity workforce shortage has been projected to reach upwards of 1.8 million unfilled positions. In India, an estimate by the Data Security Council of India indicates a requirement of about 1 million cybersecurity professionals. A study indicated that last year, there was a 117% increase in incidents of cyberattacks on Indian enterprises as compared to the previous year. With a corresponding increase in demand from companies looking to hire cybersecurity professionals, the gap in the availability of skilled cybersecurity professionals has widened and these courses are a beginning, albeit small, in meeting the demand and filling this gap.”

The courses will also meet the demand from the Defence sector for a specialized Masters program in Cybersecurity for defence personnel. Upon completion of the course, these trained personnel could take up responsibilities at various defence establishments such as CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team), WESEE (Weapons and Electronics Engineering Centre, Indian Navy), Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), Defence Cyber Agency (DCyA) and others where there is an urgent requirement for trained cybersecurity professionals and become the cyber-soldiers guarding our country’s cyber-borders!

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