(TNS) -- Lincoln Land Community College has received a three-year, $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a cybersecurity program for students.
Local businesses agree that the need for employees familiar with cybersecurity will grow in the coming years as more and more people shop, bank and conduct business online.
"Cyber attacks are growing at an alarming rate, both in number and sophistication. They are increasing year after year," said Alysse Aiello-Hewell, marketing director at Troxell Insurance in Springfield. "We know companies locally that have been affected by cyber attacks. Small businesses are one of the largest areas being attacked at this time."
Through the grant, LLCC is developing a competency-based certificate program in cybersecurity, with implementation planned in the fall of 2018.
The cybersecurity program is under the direction of Wendy Howerter, associate vice president of academic innovation and effectiveness. She said that to earn the certificate, students will have to pass competency tests related to cybersecurity that cover topics including networking and software.
The curriculum will be offered online. Students will study at their own pace, which means people with more experience in the field will be able to proceed faster.
"It's actually a pretty flexible format for students who are working in the field. If they would start this program, they could probably pass through some of the basic level competencies," Howerter said.
In addition, LLCC offers instruction in cybersecurity as one of seven tracks leading to an associate of applied science degree in computer information systems.
Terry McClallen, director of operations at Integrity Data, a software company in Lincoln, hasn't seen any details of the new LLCC program, but agreed that it's a "timely idea."
"The industry certainly needs more people skilled and trained in the area of protecting against cyber breaches and knowing how to do cyber security. I think it's a great idea," McClallen said.
Lincoln Land isn't the only local organization taking a greater interest in cybersecurity. The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce is one of the sponsors of a May 3 seminar on cybersecurity.
Troxell is one of the companies involved in the seminar, which is geared toward small businesses.
"One of the stats we know is that 44 percent of small businesses have been struck by a cyber attack already. That is growing more and more each day," Aiello-Hewell said. "...The reason we are holding this seminar is to alert and educate these small-business owners on what they need to know and how they can avoid a cyber attack."
In addition to Troxell, presenters at the seminar will include people from the Heyl Royster law firm and the Springfield office of the FBI. More information on the seminar is available online at the chamber's website, under "events."
©2017 The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.