Meeting Cybersecurity Education Challenges: A Data Analytics Approach for Continuous Learning



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Cybersecurity has become one of the most important fields within information technology (IT) over the last decade. Given the dynamic nature of the field, professionals have to continuously learn new topics and technologies in order to keep up with the latest threats. Security education programs find it difficult to keep up with changes in the field and are limited in terms of the issues they can address given the restrictive nature of courses and curricula. At the same time, within the workplace, cybersecurity is experiencing tremendous shifts in the way professionals approach their work and accomplish tasks. These changes are manifold. First, the nature of the work has become increasingly complex, requiring professionals to seek and obtain information about a broad range of issues using a diversity of sources in order to successfully accomplish tasks and assist their decision making process. Second, there is a requirement to continuously learn and improve knowledge in order to tackle problems that keep evolving and changing. Finally, the technological developments that have shifted the nature of their work also now provide the opportunity to find information and learn at their fingertips. These challenges and the continuous learning that is required to be successful have contributed to a growing shortage of cybersecurity professionals in the industry. In order to better prepare future professionals as well as to support the existing workforce, this dissertation research addressed the following questions: (1) What does the current literature on cybersecurity education tell us about the state of the art in preparing students and what are the existing gaps; (2) What resources and strategies do cybersecurity professionals use for finding solutions and learning new knowledge and what role is played by online resources in this process; and (3) How can social media data be used to better support workforce learning processes? The outcome of the first research question is a review of the existing literature in the cybersecurity education field within academia, government, and the private sector. It includes the identification of gaps and current initiatives to address these issues. In the second part of the research, an interview and survey based field study, provided a better understanding of how cybersecurity professionals look and seek for information, resulting in the creation of the “Information Seeking at the Workplace” model and a better understanding of how online resources are used. It contributes to the literature by integrating an information seeking perspective with situated cognition to inform future studies of learning in information-rich engineering and technology workplaces. The third part of the research examines how the cybersecurity community uses Twitter through both a data analytic study of Twitter data and a survey study with cybersecurity professionals. The outcome is the creation of the “Leveraging Twitter for Cybersecurity Learning Framework” which can be used to help professionals and students supplement their learning in order to stay up to date with the latest security changes.