Because of the pervasive nature of discussions about the Internet, people are now more aware than ever about the security risks of operating in cyberspace. A recent incident, which involved the theft of customer information from a supposedly secure credit card database, served to illustrate just how vulnerable systems can be to the efforts of unscrupulous hackers.
There has been a dramatic change in the general approach to managing both physical and computer security since the 2001 terror attacks, according to Professor Narayanan Srinivasan, who is an international expert on the topic and professor of security and risk management at Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Australia. "Security management has become a priority issue for most organisations," he says. "The industry standard has been raised and security guards are now required to complete professional training."
Professor Srinivasan adds that the issue is a major concern for governments and the private sector. "Many more companies now have business continuity plans to help them maintain operations and minimise losses if some kind of disaster occurs."
Despite the low threat level in Hong Kong, there is still a pressing demand for trained security professionals here, says Pamela Lam, general manager of Hong Kong CyberU (HKCyberU), the online education arm of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. This is because more major events are taking place in the city, such as the opening of Disneyland in September and the WTO conference in December.
To ensure public security, Hong Kong has to face two unique challenges. As Professor Srinivasan explains, the high population density means that even a minor incident could cause considerable damage. Besides, the accessibility of the city means that it is exposed to various forms of attack, including those from sea, air and land.
For these reasons, HKCyberU and ECU have jointly launched Hong Kong's first part-time Master's degree programme in security management. It is intended for middle to senior-level security professionals working in aviation, transportation, retail and facilities management, and security consultancy services. Course modules will include physical security, intrusion detection systems, technology, and recommended practices and procedures in the fields of maritime, aviation, trade and commercial security.
There will be two intakes of 20 students each year for the 10-module course. Applicants are required to have a Bachelor's degree and are expected to finish the programme within three years. Students must complete a project which is designed to allow theories learned in the classroom to be put into practice to solve problems in the workplace. Experienced security industry professionals who do not have a first degree may still gain entry to the course.
While most course materials are delivered online, there will be supplementary lectures given by ECU professors and tutorials conducted by local experts, such as former senior police officers. According to Ms Lam, there will be a total of 16 hours of face-to-face support for each subject. The two intakes will take place in February and July of each year.