They come from across the country and in some form work in the identity management and security industry.But today, they're students at the University of Texas at Austin.
"I've been in the identity space sort of accidentally for about the last 15 years," Ken Meiser said. Meiser is the vice president of identity solutions at ID Analytics in San Diego, California."We build software specifically to help banks and Telco's and other lenders evaluate whether or not an applicant is who they say they are," he said.
He is part of the inaugural class of the first-of-its-kind Masters of Science in Identity Management and Security program at UT. He's excited to learn because like most of his classmates, he's had to navigate the Identity industry by learning on the job. "I think everybody in this industry is self-taught and that is part of the problem right now," he said.
The program is a result of collaboration between the School of Information and the Center for Identity at UT. It's designed to educate industry leaders on business practices, policy, communications and technology solutions to protect identifying information. "As this information grows in value and in numbers so do the opportunities for either mistakes or criminal activity," Suzanne Barber, director of the Center for Identity, said.
Barber said identity theft is a huge problem. "It's bad and its growing as there are more and more opportunities to both collect the information and then misuse it," she said. Arrests for identity theft and credit card fraud are common. Just this week, Timothy Bennett was arrested for racking up a $1,694.42 bill at the Driskill Hotel using stolen credit card information.Barber said cases like this are why an educational degree in identity security can be useful. "As that emerges we also need to have a workforce that understands how to protect that information, now to manage it in a respectful way," she said. The two-year program is designed for working professionals. Classes take place once a month on weekends.
For more information about this course, watch this video