Universities: Key cogs in the cybersecurity fight

Washington, D.C. — More than 3 million higher education records were compromised in more than 50 cybersecurity breaches in the past year. The problem doesn’t end where the campus does, however.

cybersecurityData breaches across all sectors doubled in 2013. Half of those attacks were directed at the energy sector. There were 300 denial-of-service attacks targeting financial institutions, including the 15 largest banks in the country.

While it is a serious concern that universities aren’t taking lightly, there are certainly other sectors that are under greater threat than education. But as the training grounds for future generations of cybersecurity experts, colleges and universities are proving to be a key link in the chain of defense.

That’s the idea behind the new National Cybersecurity Institute at Excelsior College.

The institute officially opened its doors with an invitation-only open house on Jan. 14, on the fifth floor of a downtown office building in Washington, D.C.

Addressing a crowd that included university stakeholders, members of the the military, and officials from the Department of Homeland Security, General Ron Huntley, the deputy director of plans and policy at US CYBERCOM, compared current cybersecurity challenges to landing on the moon for the first time.

“Kennedy said we chose to go to the moon not because it was easy, but because it was hard,” Huntley said. “‘Because ‘whatever mankind must undertake’ in regards to space, ‘free men must fully share.’ Cyberspace is no different. The ability to move with freedom in cyberspace is a challenge.”

Prior to the institute’s creation, Excelsior College’s School of Business and Technology already offered an undergraduate certificate in cybersecurity, a Master of Science in cybersecurity, and several other degrees with cybersecurity concentrations.

Jane LeClair, the institute’s chief operating officer, said the college had been paying attention to how cybersecurity “was ramping” up as a field, and that Excelsior realized it would need to do some ramping up of its own.

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