19.03.19 - The two technical universities have teamed up to offer a new Master’s program that will train cyber security engineers. The program will kick off in the 2019–20 school year.

As our society becomes increasingly connected, cyber threats – whether in the form of stolen data, attacks on key infrastructure or large-scale hacking – represent a growing risk. Countering these threats requires specific expertise, and the need for well-trained experts is surging. This need was identified in the “National strategy for the protection of Switzerland against cyber risks (NCS) 2018-2022”. To help address this critical issue and promote the training of IT security specialists and research in the area of cyber security, EPFL and ETH Zurich, with the support of the Swiss government, are teaming up to offer a new joint Master’s degree in Cyber Security starting in the 2019-20 school year.

"Switzerland has been long recognized for its strengths in terms of reliability and trust. We have an outstanding education system, with two federal institutes of technology, ETH Zurich and EPFL, which are among the best in the world. Our universities and institutes of higher education are also at the forefront in many domains. It is in the light of these attributes that Switzerland can, and must, play a leading role in cyber security", says Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin, Head of the Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research.

This new Master’s program was presented on Tuesday 19 March at a press conference attended by Federal Councilor Guy Parmelin, EPFL President Martin Vetterli and ETH Zurich President Joël Mesot. “Through this joint program, we are combining our two schools’ strengths in what is a vital industry for our country. We can build upon a strong track record in cyber security going back to 2003 when the Zurich Information Security and Privacy Center was installed at ETH,” says Joël Mesot.

EPFL President Martin Vetterli shares Mr. Mesot’s assessment: “EPFL has been investing in cyber security research for over ten years, drawing on highly qualified professors in cryptography, privacy and personal-data protection. By joining forces, we will equip engineers with cutting-edge skills in this important discipline and establish Switzerland as a leader in digital trust.”

This will be Switzerland’s first university-level degree program in Cyber Security – a booming field with excellent job prospects. “Soon every company above a certain size will need to hire a cyber security manager. And they aren’t the only ones that will have to protect themselves – countries are also vulnerable. As digitalization takes hold, critical infrastructure like power generation and distribution will be increasingly targeted by cyberattacks,” says Professor Mark Pauly, who heads up the program at EPFL.

The program will start in the fall of 2019. The topics covered will include cryptography; hardware, software and network security; and methods for ensuring system security and earning user trust. The courses will incorporate practical components and address not just the technical aspects of cyber security, but also the ethical, legal and business challenges of a field that affects just about every aspect of our lives. The goal will be to equip IT security engineers with the full range of fundamental and applied skills they need to remain at the forefront of their profession. “Students will be able to choose from a wide range of courses at both ETH Zurich and EPFL. And once they graduate, they will have excellent career opportunities, whether in industry, the public sector or research,” says Professor Peter Müller, who is in charge of the program at ETH Zurich.

Courses will be given in English. Students can select whether to follow the program at EPFL or ETH Zurich – the two schools’ admission processes will be coordinated – but they must complete one semester at the other school. The program will be structured slightly differently at the two schools, but the skills taught and the number of credits (120) will be the same. The diploma will bear the logos of both schools.

The program is intended primarily for students with a Bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology or communication systems. But students with Bachelor’s degrees in other disciplines can also apply provided they have the necessary prerequisites. The admission process for the program is similar to that for other Master’s degrees at the schools, and runs from 16 January to 15 April for EPFL and 1–31 March for ETH Zurich.

Laureline Duvillard