The Silver State might just be your first choice for a cyber security degree. We’ve got a list of all the programs in Nevada plus a rundown of academic research in the state, a comprehensive summary of Las Vegas’ world-beating conferences, and an introduction to employers in and out of the gaming industry.
Studying Cyber Security in Nevada
University of Nevada-Reno is the state’s primary research university, and it just so happens to take cyber security seriously. Its Cybersecurity Center is responsible for leading the Nevada Cybersecurity Statewide Capacity and Needs Assessment from 2016 to 2018 and developing a corresponding strategy. Here are a few more details about UNR and the Cybersecurity Center:
- UNR created the center in 2014 and quickly established a minor in the discipline before launching a Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity in 2016. That’s the highest credential within the state.
- The Cybersecurity Center began hosting a seminar series in 2014 that pulls in top researchers from across the US, including the leader of the biometrics authentication team at IBM’s Watson Research Center.
- The center attracts hundreds of thousand of dollars in grant money every year. UNR professor Arslan Munir won a $175,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant in 2016 to design hardware and software security features for smart cars. Dr. Shamik Sengupta received over $300,000 in 2015 to explore economic benefits to businesses that exchange cyber security information. He also won over half a million to teach cyber security to a core group of Nevada middle and high school teachers who will then translate what they’ve learned into lesson plans.
Online Cyber Security Programs in Nevada
At the moment, WGU Nevada is the only distance education provider in the state with cyber security programs. It’s a nonprofit university that receives public support to help adults get degrees (both undergraduate and advanced) in high-demand fields.
Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Cyber Security
WGU Nevada maintains two programs of interest. The primary one is its Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance. The program is built around the skills one needs to pass introductory CompTIA certifications and more advanced certifications from (ISC)2 covering cloud and systems security. While it’s a highly technical degree, it manages to incorporate theoretical and management courses.
The second WGU program is the BS in Information Technology-Security. It’s still a technical degree, leading to CompTIA and Cisco certifications in network security, but it’s much broader than the pure Cybersecurity and Information Assurance degree. The program, like all others at WGU, is competency-based, so enrollees can test out of courses they’ve mastered. That’s why the degree draws all types: IT pros transitioning into security, security managers aiming higher up on the career ladder, and people with no experience at all.
Online Master’s Degrees in Cyber Security
The Master of Science in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance from WGU Nevada is for students who have mastered most of the technical content and want a window into higher-level public policy considerations and practical business strategies. If that sounds like a management degree to you, that’s because it kind of is. But you’ll still get some new tech skills for your toolkit, including two certifications from the EC-Council: Ethical Hacking and Countermeasures and Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator.
Cyber Security Events in Nevada
Cyber Security Meetups & Communities in Nevada
Nevada’s professional associations for cyber security are limited to Las Vegas. We link you to them below, plus clue you in to a trio of hacking meet-ups that dot the state:
- 2600: If you want to meet other hackers and InfoSec enthusiasts, a 2600 meeting is your best bet. They’re regular, informal gatherings that require no knowledge or skills – just a desire to soak up knowledge from those who do. Local hackers have created three 2600 groups in the state: one each in Las Vegas, Reno and Elko. Each meets at a public venue on the first Friday of the month.
- (ISC)2 Las Vegas: Once you get an advanced certification, you can join (ISC)2, the International Information System Security Certification Consortium. Its Las Vegas outfit runs quarterly chapter meetings for members, where you’ll be able to network with pros and listen in on expert talks.
- ISSA Las Vegas: The Las Vegas Chapter of the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) takes on student members, who can attend quarterly meetings alongside cyber security professionals. Typical engagements involve lunch and a presentation from an expert on a particular topic. ISSA Las Vegas also hosts CISSP review courses for those looking to ace the certification exam and join (ISC)2.
Cyber Security Conferences & Workshops in Nevada
What Nevada lacks in cyber security degrees it makes up for in conferences. Without exaggeration, several of the biggest conferences in the industry are held annually in Las Vegas. Three of them – Black Hat USA, BSides Las Vegas and DEF CON – take place in a two-week span, turning Sin City temporarily into the InfoSec capital of the world.
- Black Hat USA: Every summer since 1998, Black Hat has taken control of a hotel on the Las Vegas Strip for a week. Black Hat starts with four days of sponsored trainings covering various hacking skills for people who are already fairly proficient in pen testing and exploits – just choose the one that suits your needs. It ends with a two-day conference featuring academic papers and presentations from industry professionals.
- BSides Las Vegas: BSides is a two-day event scheduled to coincide with Black Hat. It distinguishes itself by being free and locally organized, but that doesn’t mean it’s second-rate. BSides draws upon Black Hat attendees to create multiple tracks of expert presentations. If you prefer to just have a bit of fun, however, you can sign up for the Pros vs. Joes Capture the Flag Competition.
- DEF CON: Come for one week to take in Black Hat and BSidesLV. Stay for a second week to do DEF CON. The country’s premier yet affordable hacker event crams a boatload of presentations, workshops, demonstrations and, yes, parties into four days. In case you somehow get bored with those, the organizers have put together hands-on “villages” to practice social engineering, lock picking, password breaking and more.
- Information Institute Annual Security Conference: Okay, onto the standalone affairs. This spring conference is organized by university researchers and attracts academics from across the world to discuss information assurance and privacy. The advantage of attending is that you’ll hear new concepts before anyone else – presentations are fast-tracked for consideration in several academic journals.
- Interop ITX Conference: Launched in 2017 in Vegas, the Interop ITX Conference is geared toward working professionals who regularly handle IT issues (and priced with the assumption their bosses will pay for it). It features multiple presentation tracks, including one for cyber security, and the weeklong event starts with an assortment of two-day summits, including a crash course on cyber security for the uninitiated.
- PasswordsCon: This smaller event has been held in Vegas since 2014 after getting its start in Norway. The organizers make clear it isn’t a space for discussing current trends but rather an opportunity for researchers and password crackers to address niche topics related to digital authentication.
- SANS Network Security: Every year, the SANS Institute rolls into Vegas with dozens of instructors. Attendees, who may or may not have prior exposure to security, can choose quick two-day trainings all the way up to weeklong courses, while also participating in a defense competition against fellow enrollees. SANS courses pack an academic term into just a few days, so the learning is intense and the registration cost isn’t cheap.
Cyber Security Jobs in Nevada
Nevada’s tech workers migrate to one of two locations: Las Vegas in the southern tip or up north around Reno. Northern Nevada’s cyber security scene is fairly small, but it has two things going for it. The first is that Reno and Lake Tahoe are relatively close to the San Francisco Bay Area, prompting Silicon Valley ski lovers to establish offices there. Some, like cyber defense gurus BlackRidge Technology, have even relocated their headquarters there. The second boon for the security sector is the Naval Air Station at Fallon, home to TOPGUN (yes, like the movie). Defense contractors such as AECOM and Allied University regularly recruit cyber security pros to work at the station an hour east of Reno.
The Las Vegas cyber security scene is more established and homogeneous. If you haven’t been to the Strip in a while, all the games are digital – and the currency exists as credits on swipe cards instead of as coins. With big money rolling in daily, the casinos have a strong interest in securing their machines. Fortune 500 casinos, er, companies Las Vegas Sands Corp and MGM Resorts International plus other major casinos and game developers constitute most of southern Nevada’s cyber security employers. There are, however, a few employers away from the slots, including two on the Cybersecurity 500, a list of top firms. Companies hire Mitnick Security to hack them and report their vulnerabilities, and Mitnick’s pen testers have never failed. Vanguard Integrity Professionals takes a different approach, letting companies outsource their security monitoring to it.
Cyber Security Salaries in Nevada
On one hand, information security analysts in Nevada earn the lowest salaries west of Colorado. Even with a change of title, the result is similar: IT security specialists and senior cyber security analysts in the state earn less than their national peers. On the other hand, $83,000 – the average salary for an information security analyst in 2016 – is nothing to scoff at, especially because that number is likely on its way up, having already increased by $4,000 since 2012…during a recession.
All Cyber Security Programs in Nevada
Below are all the matching programs we found in our directory, from 3 Nevada schools.
College of Southern Nevada
Las Vegas, Nevada
Associate of Applied Science in Computing & Information Technology – Cyber Security – Digital Forensics
Associate of Applied Science in Computing & Information Technology – Cyber Security – Network Security
Truckee Meadows Community College
University of Nevada-Reno