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Universities are creating cybersecurity professionals for tomorrow – Intelligent CIO Middle East | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware


Middlesex University Dubai has partnered with Fortinet, by joining its Academic Partner Programme, that is focused on equipping the workforce of the future, by collaborating with higher education institutions to deliver Fortinet’s training and certifications to students.

Middlesex University Dubai is the first overseas campus of the renowned Middlesex University based in London, UK. The University’s first learning space in Dubai opened at Dubai Knowledge Park in 2005 and has over 5,000 students studying from more than 120 nationalities. It is an exciting, diverse and multicultural campus that prides itself on providing a student experience with a difference.

As a testament to the growth and success of its thriving international student community, the University opened a second campus location in Dubai International Academic City in September 2021. This is the first time an international university in Dubai is offering a multi-site campus experience across both of the emirate’s international higher educational hubs.

Middlesex University Dubai offers a wide range of foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate programmes across both locations, including Accounting and Finance, Business Management, Marketing, Computer Engineering, IT, Data Science, Robotics, Education, Psychology, Law, Digital Media, Film, Creative Writing and Journalism, Fashion Design, Graphic Design, and others.

As well as having all the advantages associated with being a world-class British university, students at both Middlesex University Dubai campuses can benefit from all the opportunities afforded by a rapidly developing modern city in the heart of the Middle East, while experiencing the diverse nationalities and cultures that make up the population of Dubai.

Partnering with Fortinet

In January this year, Middlesex University Dubai partnered with Fortinet, a global cybersecurity provider driving the convergence of networking and security, by joining its Academic Partner Programme. The alliance marks a significant step forward in the university’s commitment to elevating cybersecurity education.

As part of the Fortinet Training Institute, the Academic Partner Programme is focused on equipping the workforce of the future, collaborating with higher education institutions to deliver Fortinet’s training and certifications to students.

As a partner of this Academic Partner Programme, Middlesex University Dubai will integrate Fortinet Network Security Expert certifications directly into its existing courses and also facilitate the content as standalone self-paced learning for students, from Fortinet Certified Fundamentals to Fortinet Certified Solution Specialist levels.

To supplement the course content, Middlesex University Dubai will also be able to use Fortinet network security technologies to give students a hands-on lab experience.

“The partnership aligns with the UAE Government’s Advanced Skills Strategy and goals of Centennial Plan 2071, which has identified providing specialized skills to students as one of its key priorities. It also supports the aims of the UAE Cybersecurity Council, which has set out to develop a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy and a safe and strong cyber infrastructure in the region,” said Alain Penel, Vice President, Middle East, Turkey and CIS, Fortinet.

Fortinet’s 2023 Global Cybersecurity Skills Gap Report found that as a result of unfilled IT positions due to the skills shortage, 68% of organisations indicate they face additional cyber risks.

Alain Penel, Vice President Middle East, Turkey and CIS, Fortinet

Integrating the courseware

The Department of Computer Engineering and Informatics at Middlesex University Dubai, focuses on enhancing students’ learning experience through its Academic Alliance Programme and industry partners. As part of the Academic Alliance Programme, multiple learning pathways are identified and under each, several courses with professional exams, certifications and badges are offered. These courses are offered to the students during the winter break and the summer vacation.

The Fortinet Network Security Expert certification programme will be offered as a stand-alone programme to the students starting this summer from May to September 2024. Upon the completion of each level, students will be able to proceed to the next level and apply for the certification exam.

The courses will be offered as self-paced learning. Course materials and labs will be provided to the students to be completed one level at a time. Upon the completion of each level, students will be able to proceed to the next level and apply for the certification exam.

Middlesex University Dubai has connections with IT industry partners including Oracle, Red Hat, Microsoft, SAP, EC-Council and Cisco. Industry partnerships enable students to benefit from the advanced networks and contacts, access to real-life projects and visibility of practical learning through short internships or work placements.

“The digital landscape is constantly evolving, with the rate of change often outpacing the ability of industries to adapt. Cybersecurity concerns and the imperative to address pervasive risks loom large in today’s discourse,” says Professor Fehmida Hussain, Deputy Director of Engagement and Student Experience and Head of Computer Engineering and Informatics at Middlesex University Dubai.

Fortinet’s Academic Partner Programme

According to recent research, there is currently a global cybersecurity workforce shortage of 3.4 million people. The Fortinet Academic Partner Programme works with higher education institutions and schools around the world to help bridge this gap and create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive cybersecurity workforce globally.

As of January 2024, it has almost 700 academic partners across 99 markets globally. In the UAE, the partners include Syscoms College, AMSI, University of Sharjah, and now MDX Dubai. Fortinet supports this by aiming to train 1 million individuals in cybersecurity by 2026.

The Fortinet Academic Partner Programme bridges the gap between learning and careers through access to industry-recognised Fortinet Network Security Expert training and certification courses. Authorised Academic Partners can integrate the Fortinet Training Institute certification directly into their existing courses or facilitate the content as stand-alone continuing education.

To supplement the course content, institutions can also use Fortinet network security technologies to give students a hands-on lab experience. Graduates of the programme leave with in-demand cybersecurity skills to help protect networks from global cyber threats, such as phishing attacks, ransomware, and business email compromise.

The programme can be taught for pure skill and career development or with the goal of each graduate becoming Fortinet Network Security Expert-Certified.

Impact on business

Fortinet’s 2023 Global Cybersecurity Skills Gap Report shows that organisations continue to fight an uphill battle against cyber threats. They are experiencing more breaches, are in dire need of skilled professionals, and are struggling to fill critical roles.

As cybercrime proliferates and bad actors identify new and more sophisticated ways to infiltrate networks, it is no surprise that organisations are falling victim to cyberattacks more frequently than in the past. The report shows that 84% of enterprises experienced one or more breaches in the past 12 months. And the number of organisations confirming five or more breaches jumped by 53% between 2021 and 2022.

While numerous factors are likely to contribute to this increase in breaches, more than two-thirds of business leaders, 68% agree that unfilled IT and security positions pose a security risk to their organisations.

In addition to successful cyberattacks occurring more frequently, they are continuing to cost organisations a lot of money. Nearly half of the organisations surveyed suffered breaches in the past 12 months that cost more than $1 million to remediate. However, it is not all bad news. The report also shows that recruiting from a more diverse talent pool can help to shrink the skills gap, and many organisations are creating and pursuing initiatives to attract a broader set of candidates.

Role of diversity

Businesses have historically sought out traditional candidates, those with a degree in a related field or previous cybersecurity work experience, to fill open cybersecurity roles. However, this outdated approach is no longer viable given the overwhelming need for cybersecurity professionals.

Most organisations, 83% now have diversity goals for hiring that span the next two to three years. Drawing from historically overlooked sources of talent can help fill skill gaps by expanding the pool of potential candidates, such as seeking candidates from a broader talent set, including women, minority groups, and military veterans.

It is encouraging to see businesses implementing programmes to attract a more diverse talent pool. According to the report, many organisations maintain recruiting initiatives aimed at women, 73% and candidates from minority populations, 59%.

Despite their efforts, some organisations still find recruiting and hiring qualified individuals difficult. Of the three talent sources mentioned, 69% of IT decision-makers say their organisations struggle to find and hire qualified women, saying it is considerably harder than recruiting from minority and veteran populations. And more than half, 54% also say that retaining these individuals is also a challenge.

“Our commitment to excellence is reflected in this collaboration with Fortinet, integrating their NSE qualifications into our curriculum to ensure our students receive the best possible education,” says Professor Fehmida Hussain.

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