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Annabelle Theobald

"Students have so many opportunities to develop"

As a lecturer, CISPA faculty Dr. -Ing. Ben Stock regularly teaches students at Saarland University the foundations of cyber and web security. As a course advisor for the bachelor's degree program in cybersecurity in both its German and English incarnation, the IT security researcher is the right person to talk to if you're wondering why it's worth studying cybersecurity.

Ben, what are the benefits of a bachelor's degree in cybersecurity? Does the choice make sense even if students don't yet know exactly what they want to do later?

Interested students should not think of the bachelor's degree in cybersecurity (Cysec) as too specialized. It's not like you put on blinders and don't get any of the basics - on the contrary. The advantage of this degree program is that Cysec students get to see the application in IT security in addition to the computer science basics from day 1 and have a clear focus from the start.

But doesn't anything else necessarily fall "under the table" for this?

The general computer science program at Saarland University always includes a minor, for example, mathematics. The Cysec program does not but offers its students a wide range of IT security courses that have no place in the regular computer science program. Only two courses that are compulsory in the computer science program are omitted in the cybersecurity bachelor's program. So Cysec students master all the important computer science basics just like everyone else.

Can a cybersecurity bachelor's degree later be used to study for a master's degree in computer science, and vice versa?

That's the good thing. Students have so many development opportunities and can enter at almost any point. Anyone who wants to study cybersecurity in the bachelor's program doesn't need any special prior knowledge. We teach them everything they need. Anyone who has studied computer science in the bachelor's program and wants to enroll in the master's program in cybersecurity can do so. Then, they only have to catch up on the introductory lectures on cryptography and security. In addition to the bachelor's and master's degrees in cybersecurity, Saarland University also offers the master's program in Entrepreneurial Cybersecurity in cooperation with CISPA. This combines IT security and computer science knowledge with a start-up project. This is interesting for all those who would like to become self-employed later on. But even those who ultimately decide against entrepreneurial activity and in favor of an academic career still have the opportunity to do so. They can receive credit for most of the lectures they have attended and then switch to the Master of Science. Especially within the first year, this is quite easy, so you don't have to worry about committing yourself too early.

What are the job prospects with a bachelor's or master's degree in cybersecurity?

I know people in a wide variety of positions. Some work at banks or insurance companies. Others at start-ups, in small and large companies. I don't know anyone who has had trouble finding something. If you want even more, you can do a PhD at CISPA. Afterward, all paths are open to graduates. CISPA supports them both on their way into industry and academia, as well as in setting up their own business.

What specializations are available in the Master's program in Cybersecurity?

The master's program is also very versatile. We currently offer 22 different specialization lectures per year - and the trend is increasing. There are various areas in which students can specialize. These include cryptography, mobile security, side channels, privacy, machine learning, and formal methods. The course of study can be completely practical, completely theoretical, or rather broad. Students decide this for themselves with their choice of courses. The master's program has only been offered since the winter semester of 2021/2022 but has already been very well received. In the past summer semester, demand has already increased enormously.

How did you actually get into cybersecurity?

I completed my bachelor's degree in computer science in Mannheim in 2010, where I first heard a lecture on IT security at the chair of Prof. Dr. Felix Freiling. Later, I studied IT security in the master's program at TU Darmstadt. Security was already a separate subject, but I don't think it was offered anywhere else. Gradually, I got more and more involved in the topics of web and network security and have been at CISPA since 2015, where I am now a senior researcher.