Open Access
Young, Michelle L
Graduate Program:
Information Sciences and Technology
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
February 20, 2010
Committee Members:
  • David J Hall, Thesis Advisor
  • cyber security
  • situational awareness
  • decision making
The world of academia is a place of freedom. A place where ideas can be exchanged, debated, created, and disproved. The phrase ‘academic freedom’ characterizes a domain for sharing and communicating openly. The expectation is that every individual on any given university campus will have the opportunity to advance knowledge into the world unencumbered by the constraints of restrictive policies often found in corporations, government, and military domains. This mindset of an open environment is exactly the challenge security experts face as they try to protect the data and information of the university. The study of cyber security analysts within the academic domain is one that is well suited qualitative inquiry. The cognitive tasks involved in decision-making and maintenance of situational awareness demand an understanding of tasks, but also of the environment or context in which those tasks take place. In order to understand and frame this inquiry, the research will attempt to answer the following two research questions: R1: What are the characteristics that define the working environment of a security professional in an academic domain? R2: How do cyber security analysts in the academic domain assess and maintain cyber situational awareness? To address these research questions, eleven interviews were performed with security professionals from five different universities. Using a grounded theory approach, the interviews were coded and analyzed to gain understanding from the point of view of the security professional.