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Here's Why Cyber Security, Business Analytics Are A Must For MBAs, As Firms Crunch Big Data

Information management has cropped up at elite schools everywhere

Big data in global business has gone from a competitive edge to a necessity. Across every sector, analytics is re-engineering strategy.

The companies that utilize their data effectively will stay afloat at a time of rising competition from tech-savvy competitors and sluggish economic growth. Those that don’t will sink.

“Technology and data are reshaping everything that everyone does,” says Nick Frost, a partner at KPMG, the professional services firm. “But we need to be aware that technology and the world move fast and so we cannot afford to be complacent,” he says.

Working with analytics has become the dream job for anyone coming out of business school. But what happens when your most valuable resource becomes a threat?

“[Customers] want the convenience of accessing data on any device at any time. But this raises a lot of security challenges,” says Shawn Mankad, assistant professor of information management at Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management.

Cornell is trying to stay ahead of the curve. It works with Salesforce, Amazon and EY to make sure digital technology is at its core. Information management has cropped up at elite schools everywhere, and cyber security is one of the big concerns, according to Tad Oelstrom, a cyber security expert at Harvard University.

“You can go to almost any major university today that has a tech component and in there someplace will be folks who are working on cyber security and maybe offering programs,” he says. Tad teaches a $7,600 cyber security course for board-level executives. He’s not alone.

“It’s been threaded throughout the MBA and executive programs. This is stuff you simply need to know,” says David Upton, fellow at the Global Cyber Security Capacity Center at Oxford University, and professor of operations management at Saïd Business School.

Stuart Madnick, professor of information technology and director of (IC)3, MIT Sloan School of Management’s cyber security initiative, believes such programs are increasingly important because businesses are under increasing threat of cyber attacks.

PwC, the professional services firm, estimates nearly nine out of 10 large organizations suffer a security breach. High-profile hacks on TalkTalk, Sony, and JD Wetherspoon are just a few recent examples.

“There are only two kinds of companies in the world today: those that know they’ve been attacked and those that don’t yet know they’ve been attacked,” Stuart says.

To make matters worse, there is a dire shortage of mangers who have cyber security expertise.

According to Burning Glass, a recruitment technology firm, the need for this expertise is stronger than even the demand for data analytics skills, which is surging, says Benoit Banchereau, director of development at HEC Paris.

“Analytical skills are more and more valued because businesses constantly come across volumes of exponentially increasing and complex data,” he says.

MBA programs are closing the cyber security talent gap too, according to Jean-Pierre Auffret, director of the MSc in Secure Information Systems at George Mason University. “As it’s become a permeant part of the landscape for corporations, it’s becoming a permanent part of the landscape for business schools,” he says.

However, some experts say companies are not doing enough to protect their data. Cyber attacks on large companies increased by 40% over a year, according to Symantec, the internet security company.

“Most firms wrongly believe that they are not targets and they are therefore unconcerned,” says Bill DeLone, executive director of the Kogod Cybersecurity Governance Center.

The talent shortage is driving up MBA career opportunities. “There are so many career opportunities in this sector. In major companies cyber security has to be managed at the strategic level, so jobs and positions are close to the top management,” says Bertrand Monnet, chair for criminal risk management at EDHEC Business School.

Many of these opportunities are for technological experts, but many are for general managers too, says Jason Ferdinand, director of Coventry University Business School’s cyber security MBA.

“[There are] huge opportunities for MBAs in the security, threat intelligence, and penetration testing industries,” he says.

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