(Jasmine Bala/ Ryersonian)

The first cohort of Chang School students in Brampton started hacking away at their computer security certificates this week.

Despite Ryerson University’s satellite campus being put on hold after the province revoked $90 million in funding for an expansion to Brampton, the university is now offering continuing education courses in the city.

Computer Network Security (CKDF 110) and Security Architecture and Design (CKDF 140) are being taught in a classroom in the West Tower of Brampton City Hall. Both courses are credits towards the Chang School’s Certificate in Computer Security and Digital Forensics.

“The world is getting more and more wired,” said instructor Alfred Lai, following his first lecture on Jan. 21. “It’s become a good thing for us, but it’s also become a weakness because people with malicious intent will be able to take control or do things that aren’t legal.”

Lai said everyone who uses a computer should learn the basics of cybersecurity in order to protect themselves from hackers. “And those who have the talent or the inclination should further develop their career towards that direction,” he said.  

Canadian businesses spent $14 billion to detect, prevent and recover from cybersecurity threats in 2017, according to Statistics Canada. About 21 per cent of businesses reported being impacted by a cybersecurity incident that affected their operations that year.

An information technology manager, health and safety coordinator and lifeguard were among the students who showed up for the first lecture in Brampton. The 11 students enrolled in Lai’s introductory course will study everything from ethics in computer security to biometrics throughout the 12-week course.

Taha Rizvi, a 2016 graduate of Ryerson’s Occupational Health and Safety program, said he’s always been interested in computers, but discovering cybersecurity courses being taught only 20 minutes from his home in Mississauga was what drove him to enrol in the computer security program.

Rizvi said he wants to learn more about cryptocurrencies and the threats associated with digital currencies.

“My experience [with cybersecurity] as a teenager was a little bit more on the offensive side, so this course will teach me more about the defensive side,” he said.

Nearly 40 per cent of the Canadian businesses who reported being impacted by a cybersecurity incident in 2017 couldn’t identify the motive of the attack. The remaining businesses identified motives for cyber attacks as attempts to steal money or personal information, demand ransom payments or access unauthorized areas.

Alex Ferworn, the academic coordinator for the certificate program, said students in Brampton will learn how to defend cyber attacks while also salvaging evidence of cybercrimes in order to prosecute hackers.

The Chang School certificate isn’t new in itself; it has been popular online since the program was created seven years ago, Ferworn said. The academic coordinator added that teaching the courses in physical classrooms in Brampton is a pilot project.

“We have big aspirations for Ryerson,” said Paul Aldunate, project manager of the university initiative at the City of Brampton.

Aldunate said Brampton views the province’s funding cut as a delay in opening a satellite campus in the downtown core. Leasing Ryerson space to run Chang School classes is the first step to reaching that “dream” – a Ryerson-Sheridan College campus in Brampton, he said.

The City of Brampton previously committed $150 million to Ryerson’s Brampton campus.

In the meantime, Aldunate said both Brampton and Ryerson are interested in moving the university’s Cybersecure Catalyst out west. Ryerson is also “providing their expertise” in helping Brampton build a pilot innovation hub, a downtown facility that will house a co-working space and the Brampton Entrepreneur Centre.

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