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Badger State schools are slowly rolling out cyber security programs, with plenty of certificates and a handful of degrees available. See our list of Wisconsin cyber security programs, or peruse the research projects, scholarships, communities and careers that attract cyber security specialists to Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay and beyond.
Studying Cyber Security in Wisconsin
Several of Wisconsin’s two-year technical colleges provide a strong foundation in cyber security. The standout is Waukesha County Technical College, the state’s only Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education. It earned the distinction from the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2017. After earning an associate, you have a few possible destinations. Here are some of the big players:
- Researchers within the University of Wisconsin system have data from top-tier academic institutions (e.g., University of Southern California) and federal agencies (e.g., the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), thanks to its participation in the Information Marketplace for Policy and Analysis of Cyber-risk & Trust, a database of figures covering everything from traffic flow to blackhole addresses. That should come in particularly handy for students in UW-Stout’s bachelor’s program.
- Marquette University formed the Center for Cyber Security Awareness and Cyber Defense in 2016 to support its master’s degree. The center hosts an annual Ethics of Big Data symposium, which explores the intersection of analytics and privacy.
- Going to Marquette or UW-Milwaukee may soon work to students’ advantage for internships and research opportunities. The Astronautics Corporation of America in Milwaukee has brought both schools on board to create the Center of Excellence for Integrated Aerospace and Defense Technologies. Industry partners and academic researchers will use the proposed facility to test aerospace cyber security systems.
- The National Science Foundation (NSF) gave $5 million in 2016 toward the establishment of the Center for Trustworthy Scientific Cyberinfrastructure, a joint effort between University of Wisconsin-Madison, Indiana University, the University of Illinois and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center. In essence, these are the researchers that protect the NSF’s data from hacks. Professor Barton Miller of UW-Madison is part of the center’s leadership team and heads the DHS-funded Software Assurance Marketplace, which distributes open-source security testing tools to businesses. So, even though UW-Madison doesn’t have a standalone cyber security program, you can feel comfortable attending for graduate studies.
- Speaking of UW-Madison, the Wisconsin Security Research Consortium announced in 2015 its plan to form the Wisconsin Information Security Research Center (WISC) at UW-Madison’s research park. It aims to attract security companies and develop a cyber security workforce through R&D projects. Stay tuned.
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Online Cyber Security Programs in Wisconsin
Distance learning degrees in cyber security can be hard to come by. Thus far, Wisconsinites have just one in-state option: a graduate credential from a private institution, Marquette University.
Online Master’s Degrees in Cyber Security
Marquette’s MS in Computing is a top-25 program, according US News & World Report. Enrollees in the Information Assurance and Cyber Defense specialization need undergraduate coursework or work experience in programming and data structures to be admitted. Other than that, students don’t need a strong computer science background – they’ll get it in the program alongside an introduction to tactics needed to work as a security specialist. Second-year students conduct a final research project in the discipline or complete extra coursework with an internship.
Cyber Security Scholarships in Wisconsin
We found cyber security scholarships from two junior colleges and one state university. If your chosen school isn’t on this list, check back on its foundation scholarships page throughout the year, as awards are added annually.
Fox Valley Technical College
- Information Technology Team Scholarship: With a year as an IT major under their belt and a 3.25 GPA, Fox Valley students in the Information Systems Security Specialist program can apply for $300.
Madison Area Technical College
- Henry Walski IT Scholarship: Second-year IT students with a 3.0 GPA can apply for this award. Those with a solid resume of extracurriculars typically claim it.
- IT New Student Scholarship: Freshmen enrollees in three IT associate programs, including Network Security Specialist, can get $1,000.
- IT Program Scholarship: Students with one semester of a Madison College Information Technology degree behind them can apply for this $400 to $800 award.
- IT Student Assistance Scholarship: Members of either the WolfPack Techies Group or Madison Information Technology Association can apply for funding toward professional development activities.
- Mel Seamans Memorial Scholarship: Full- and part-timers in the IT department are eligible for $800 in tuition funding.
University of Wisconsin-Stout
- Bruce Family Scholarship: Upperclassmen in the Applied Mathematics and Computer Science program, which features a Cyber Security concentration, are eligible for the Bruce Family Scholarship. It goes to students with financial need.
- Eino Maki Scholarship: Any Applied Mathematics and Computer Science student with a 3.0 is eligible for the Eino Maki award.
- Hill-Johnson-Crislip Family Scholarship: Upperclassmen in the Applied Mathematics and Computer Science program are also eligible for this award. It’s given to student leaders with a 3.0 GPA.
- John Neuenfeldt Scholarship: Any Applied Mathematics and Computer Science student with a 3.0 is eligible for the Neuenfeldt prize.
Cyber Security Events in Wisconsin
Cyber Security Meetups & Communities in Wisconsin
Madison, Milwaukee and Green Bay all support chapters of professional associations as well as local Meetups.
- 920 Sec: Monthly meetings of 920 Sec start around 5:30 near Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Sometimes the assembled hackers and InfoSec junkies discuss a predetermined topic and sometimes they just chat about whatever comes up. What they never do is charge dues or push people to present. It’s a pretty chill way to network, and beer is always on tap.
- DC 414: Milwaukee’s DEFCON group, DC 414, convenes in a similarly low-key manner every first Friday of the month. Get recaps of this hacking group’s casual conversations on their website; a typical meeting might meander from a discussion of Russian hacking to a demo of a new script. Double-check DC 414’s Meetup page to make sure next month’s event is a go. (FYI: The closest thing to DC 414 in Madison is its 2600 group, which meets at the Fair Trade Coffee House the first Friday of the month at 5:00 pm.)
- Madison Information Security Group: Apparently, Wisconsinites loathe agendas, because you won’t find them at this group either (although sometimes members present what they’re working on). Just show up to the chosen pub on the appointed evening and network with information security professionals and those who aspire to become one. The group meets monthly.
- MilSec: MilSec is just like the Madison Information Security Group, only in Milwaukee. Its monthly meetings are held the last Thursday of the month. It also folded the Milwaukee chapter of the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) into its membership in 2016.
- Milwaukee/Madison Identity & Access Management User Group: The IAM User Group meets quarterly for member presentations and guest speakers, but avoids sales pitches in favor of networking and discussion.
- OWASP Madison: This chapter of the Open Web Application Security Project reactivated in spring 2017 with the intention of convening monthly. Recent member-led presentations have covered buffer overflows and the Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP), a free OWASP security tool.
Yearn to pay dues, get CPEs, and do some advanced networking? Two organizations can help. The Kettle Moraine Chapter of ISACA (née Information Systems Audit and Control Association) meets in Milwaukee monthly and livestreams its guest speaker presentations so viewers can watch remotely. And (ISC)2 – the International Information System Security Certification Consortium – lists chapters in Northeast Wisconsin (Appleton) and Lake Country (Waukesha/New Berlin), but neither chapter has an up-to-date website. Use the contact information on the ISC(2) chapter page to get in touch with local leaders.
Cyber Security Conferences & Workshops in Wisconsin
Wisconsin also promotes a healthy assortment of hacker and InfoSec conferences divided between Milwaukee and Madison.
- CypherCon: Launched as a two-day hacker conference in 2016, CypherCon has become an annual Milwaukee event. Multiple tracks let attendees choose between speakers presenting on topics as diverse as cryptography and IoT. Attendees can also meander into any of the dozen “villages” – areas where they can hone their skills at everything from car hacking to espionage.
- Governor’s Cybersecurity Summit: A one-day affair in Madison, the Governor’s Cybersecurity Summit puts private and public sector thinkers in one room so they can understand and respond to threats to Wisconsin’s infrastructure. Speakers include government and business leaders.
- Lockdown Technology & Cybersecurity Conference: University of Wisconsin-Madison has been hosting this event since 2001. Recent iterations have had multiple tracks so that technically oriented security pros and strategy-minded managers can attend sessions relevant to them. The one-day event is open to everyone, but students get a discount.
- Milwaukee Tech-Security Conference: This annual exposition is a free chance to see what’s new. Stop by and chat with exhibitors about recent software releases in between sponsored presentations.
- Wisconsin Digital Government Summit: The Wisconsin Digital Government Summit seeks to unite public sector employees to adopt best practices in cyber security and technology usage. The two-day event includes a mix of networking and breakout sessions.
Cyber Security Jobs in Wisconsin
Based on its population, Wisconsin should have about 2.5 times the number of cyber security job openings it currently does, according to Cyber Seek. But it’s still got thousands of open positions. To maximize your chances of snagging one, notch a CISSP, CISA or CISM certification – all of which are in high demand in the state.
Which companies are doing good work? According to the Cybersecurity 500, a catalog of hotshot firms, PKWARE in Milwaukee is developing new ways to encrypt data. Over in the capital, SimplifIDe is working on replacing passwords with biometric entry on all sorts of devices. Others not on the list but worth considering include Red Sky Consulting, a Minneapolis IT firm with an office in Green Bay, and SynerComm, a group of professional pen testers and security auditors in suburban Milwaukee.
Several big Fortune 500 companies also call the state home, all of whom need cyber security pros regardless of their industry. One of the biggest is automotive parts manufacturer Johnson Controls in Milwaukee. Expect Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company and Madison’s American Family Insurance Group to have openings at headquarters as well.
Cyber Security Salaries in Wisconsin
Some Wisconsin graduates may opt to move to Chicago or Minneapolis after graduation to take advantage of those cities’ high salaries for information security specialists. But you don’t have to. The Badger State boasts rising salaries, with 2016’s information security analysts making over 10 percent more than their 2012 versions did. The Bureau of Labor Statistics and Indeed.com both report wages in the $75-80K range for that title. Security engineers, meanwhile take in more than $80K annually and IT security specialists command upwards of $100,000.
All Cyber Security Programs in Wisconsin
Below are all the matching programs we found in our directory, from 8 Wisconsin schools.
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