IT instructor explains the importance of security in today's world

Published on: February 15, 2023
Ralph Argiento poses for a photo in one of GTCC's computer labs.
Ralph Argiento has been teaching since 1999.

According to research from IBM in 2021, around 90 percent of data breaches are a result of phishing scams, making GTCC’s Information Technology Security and Data Assurance track all the more relevant in today’s world. The program teaches students how to protect networks against these attacks. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs in information security will increase by 35 percent, much higher than the average growth rate of 5 percent across all occupations.

Ralph Argiento is passionate about information technology and about getting students involved in protecting data. Department Chair of Computer Technologies Argiento discusses his background in information technology systems, the importance of security and data assurance, and how GTCC can help students succeed in the field.

GTCC: What is information technology?

Argiento: Information Technology is a huge umbrella that covers pretty much anything digital. Because the area is so large, we have two departments covering it. We have computer science, which covers simulation, gaming, programming, web, and databases. Then computer technology, which is what I’m responsible for, is cyber security networking, security and data assurance, system support, and any kind of operating systems and applications, like Word or Excel.

GTCC: Can you describe your background in relation to the program?

Argiento: I started, way back in my career, as a programmer, which makes people look at me crazy because normally the security networking people don’t like programming. But I kind of like everything.
I worked for companies like Nabisco, Pepsi, big companies like that. Over the years, I just kept redefining myself, which is one of the great things about IT. You can start as one thing, like me as a programmer, and jump into networking or security.

Way back, Y2K time, my brother taught at another school and said, “Hey, would you like to teach a class at night?” And I said, “No, I’m never going to teach that.” But as soon as I went into the classroom and started passing on the knowledge and seeing the lightbulbs going off on students’ faces, I knew I wanted to go into teaching. And I’ve been doing it since 1999.

GTCC: Why did you make the switch from programming to security?

Argiento: Ego. When I was doing programming, I saw the network security guys and how they controlled all the systems. I was like, yeah, I could control the programs that people use to program. I can sit there and manage the networks to make sure that everything flows properly.

It’s just one of those control things. I wanted to learn how everything is interrelated, how they are all connected, and how I can control them.

GTCC: What are the classes like in the Security and Data Assurance track?

Argiento: In the security and data assurance classes, we’re giving you a foundation on how all the systems work, because if you don’t understand the foundation, then you can’t protect it.

Let’s say you go to your favorite browser and you type “” The students learn what happens every step of the way because there are so many different moving parts.

Students have to understand that because an attacker can hit you anywhere along that transmission and back. So, we try to beat the foundations of everything in networking, how operating systems work, how humans work because we are the weakest link in security, and how to protect the system so that they aren’t vulnerable to attacks.

You’re going to keep learning from now until whenever because technology is changing and the attacks are changing. So just buckle in and you’re going to be along on a nice little ride.

GTCC: What are the job prospects like for graduates of this program?

Argiento: I always tell my students that it depends on what kind of person you are. Are you the go-getter? Are you constantly learning? Are you asking lots of questions? If you come in here and you just take the classes, but you don’t have the drive, you’re not going to have as many opportunities.

Think of it this way: If I was in charge of security at a company, am I letting somebody with an associate degree have the keys to manage it? So, you’re going to start on a more junior level, either systems administrator or at a help desk.
I went to a conference over the summer and they had some people from the NSA (National Security Agency) and government security, and there are 715,000 cyber security positions today. So again, are you going to leave an expert? No, but you’re going to have the ability to get in at the bottom and work your way up. Are you going to leave here and make $100,000 right away? Probably not. But within three to five years, if you keep growing and keep getting certifications, can you earn six figures? Yes.

The opportunities are there, but you have to put in the work after graduation.

GTCC: Can you tell me about the Cyber Crime Technology Center?

Argiento: We are officially recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in cyber defense by the NSA.
We are currently in development for our sector. It will be a place where we can have community outreach, like a class on how to protect your home computer or on protecting yourself from spam or any kind of phishing.

GTCC: Why is this degree, along with the broader Information Technology degrees, important for our world today?

Argiento: Well again, with those 715,000 unfilled cyber security jobs, that’s where we are excelling today because we are offering those skills that every company needs today. With COVID, we realized with people working remotely, people not all being in one central place, that companies need to protect their information more than ever.
All companies, schools, and local governments everywhere are looking to protect the digital assets we have.
Who uses security? Everybody. It doesn’t matter what a company does, they are protecting their systems and their networks to make sure nobody hacks into them.

The hacker only has to find one area that you did not secure. We have to protect everything they could think of. With security and data assurance, it’s about protecting and knowing exactly how the data goes across because every place is a vulnerability that someone can attack.

GTCC: What would you say to someone interested in pursuing this degree?

Argiento: Go for it. I’ll get people calling up asking, “What do I need to know?” Nothing. This is one of those areas that you just need to have a hunger for it and a drive for it.

If you don’t have that hunger, if you don’t have the desire, if you treat it as work, you’re not going to be successful. But if it’s something that you’re really interested in, the possibilities are endless. This is an area that’s open to anybody.

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