CCE Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

College of Computing and Engineering

Advisor

Yair Levy

Committee Member

Martha M. Snyder

Committee Member

Ling Wang

Abstract

The global reliance on the Internet to facilitate organizational operations necessitates further investments in organizational information security. Such investments hold the potential for protecting information assets from cybercriminals. To assist organizations with their information security, The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Cybersecurity Workforce Framework (NCWF) was created. The framework referenced the cybersecurity work, knowledge, and skills required to competently complete the tasks that strengthen their information security. Organizational users’ limited cybersecurity competency contributes to the financial and information losses suffered by organizations year after year. While most organizational users may be able to respond positively to a cybersecurity threat, without a measure of their cybersecurity competency they represent a cybersecurity threat to organizations.

The main goal of this research study was to develop a universal Cybersecurity Competency Framework (CCF) to determine the demonstrated cybersecurity Knowledge, Skills, and Tasks (KSTs) through the NCWF (NICE, 2017) as well as identify the cybersecurity competency of organizational users. Limited attention has been given in cybersecurity research to determine organizational users’ cybersecurity competency. An expert panel of cybersecurity professionals known as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) validated the cybersecurity KSTs necessary for the universal CCF. The research study utilized the explanatory sequential mixed-method approach to develop the universal CCF.

This research study included a developmental approach combining quantitative and qualitative data collection in three research phases. In Phase 1, 42 SMEs identified the KSTs needed for the universal CCF. The results of the validated data from Phase 1 were inputted to construct the Phase 2 semi-structured interview. In Phase 2, qualitative data were gathered from 12 SMEs. The integration of the quantitative and qualitative data validated the KSTs. In Phase 3, 20 SMEs validated the KST weights and identified the threshold level. Phase 3 concluded with the SMEs' aggregation of the KST weights into the universal CCF index.

The weights assigned by the SMEs in Phase 3 showed that they considered knowledge as the most important competency, followed by Skills, then Tasks. The qualitative results revealed that training is needed for cybersecurity tasks. Phase 3 data collection and analysis continued with the aggregation of the validated weights into a single universal CCF index score. The SMEs determined that 72% was the threshold level.

The findings of this research study significantly contribute to the body of knowledge on information systems and have implications for practitioners and academic researchers. It appears this is the only research study to develop a universal CCF to assess the organizational user’s competency and create a threshold level. The findings also offer further insights into what organizations need to provide cybersecurity training to their organizational users to enable them to competently mitigate cyber-attacks.

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