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Computer Science vs. Cybersecurity

I have a Masters in Computer Science and working on a Masters in Cybersecurity. I’m often asked if they are different. They are. In Computer Science, most programs are based on the software development, algorithms, data structures, network and database theory. Most programs that I’ve seen are fairly similar. They cover much of the same topics. Here is the MS degree requirements for Pace University. The first two semesters are about learning a programming language, for which you will use as a basis of discussion for later semesters. In other words .. here is the language we’re going to use, to present ideas in later on. Computer Architecture is also covered in the basics. That will include some assembly programming and a load of theory on logic gates. After that, the core requirements are about the same in any school. Data structures, parallel computing and databases. Again, much of it is theoretical. Like .. how many table relationships should a database table have to other tables. How to layout databases, things like that.

Then you choose a concentration and take electives. Most Comp Science programs are very similar.

Cybersecurity is different. It’s a broader topic. It encompasses aspects of law enforcement, compliance, audit, forensics, and technology. In a lot of ways, a lot of cybersecurity is policy driven. Here is an MBA program at Utica College, that has a specialty in Cybersecurity and one in cyberpolicy The same school also has a Masters in Cybersecurity. In it there are a number of specialties; financial crime, operations, intelligence, Analysis, and forensics. I attend SUNY Polytechnic Institute. Our Cybersecurity program is very different. It’s actually an MS in Network and Computer Security The coursework is more technical and deep dives into computer networks and computer systems security. As you can see, Cybersecurity can take you in a lot of different directions. The Path I’m taking is most closely related to Computer Science, but even so, the degrees couldn’t be more different

I’ve written a lot of code in both the Computer Science and now the Cybersecurity degree. The approach to software development is very different. In Computer Science, I spent my time trying to find elegant algorithms, and data structures. I tried to find computationally efficient solutions for software problems. In Cybersecurity, none of that matters. I write software with the express purpose of gaining access. I spend a lot of time running perfectly good software through the GDB debuggger, in an effort to find out address space to put malicious code. I’ve also become better at understanding assembly code and hex math.

The approach in Computer Science is to create good software. To build things. This is counter to what we do in Cybersecurity which is to expressly find faults and use them to gain access. Some of the skill sets are the same. You wouldn’t want to approach these Cybersecurity courses without some knowledge of C/C++ programming. You also want to know about databases, networks, and how different network protocols work. In that respect, the degrees are similar. in Comp Sci – this knowledge is used to make products. In Cybersec, this knowledge is to circumvent products.

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