Social media attacks? Russian hacking? Professor predicted it in 2005

Amanda Sharp Parker was studying cyber terrorism before it was cool — or even considered a serious threat. While writing her master’s thesis at Eastern Carolina University on law enforcement’s preparedness for cyber terrorism, she began to consider how electronic magnetic pulse attacks could be used by terrorists.

In 2005, when she presented her work, she was told that cyber attackers gaining traction via online platforms wasn’t plausible.

“It went completely over their heads at the time,” Parker remembers, “but three years later, we started seeing that yes, we really could have this kind of cyber attack. The majority of people in the U.S. with sympathy or ties to ISIS and other terrorist groups have never been out of the country — but they are heavily influenced by these online communities. ”

Parker’s master thesis was published in Security Journal in 2008, setting her on the path to becoming a leading cyber security expert. Now serving as the program coordinator and assistant professor of homeland security at Campbell, Parker recently co-authored a textbook three years in the making that will help undergraduates grasp the complexities of cyberterrorism. 

According to Parker, the challenge when publishing literature on cyber-anything is making the text comprehensive. “Cyberspace, Cybersecurity and Cybercrime” is unique in that it is written for homeland security students who don’t have a thorough or high-level understanding of I.T. and data communication systems.

Parker’s publication is good news for Campbell’s department of history, political science and criminal justice. Last year, the College of Arts & Sciences took in 60 new homeland security students, and the field is rising in popularity. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of growth for jobs in information security is projected at 37 percent from 2012 to 2022 — much faster than the average for all other occupations.

At Campbell, homeland security students who are particularly interested in cyber fields minor in information technology. Students are also required to take on an internship with federal agencies like the TSA, Custom Border or U.S. Postal Inspector; or at the state level in emergency management, the SBI or local law enforcement.

The next step for the department is the introduction of both a major and minor cybersecurity program that will be a combination of homeland security, IT and crime courses. Parker hopes to utilize her textbook at Campbell when an Intro to Cyber Security course is made available to students.

“It’s extremely important that the program stays up-to-date,” says Parker. “Students are required to keep up with international news, and occasionally have to interrupt what’s on the syllabus and pause to examine a relevant issue. The nature of the threat is always evolving, so it’s a fast-paced field.”