The National Science Foundation has awarded a $2.7 million grant to an eight-state consortium of technology centers and community colleges that is working to block cyber attacks and stop the loss of high-tech jobs in the U.S., officials said Oct. 14.
The three-year grant to the Cyber Security Education Consortium will help train a new generation of cyber warriors whose job it will be to prevent potentially crippling internet-based attacks and stop the drain of knowledge and jobs to nations such as China and India, where 2 million technological workers have U.S.-related jobs, the officials said.
Richard M. George, technical director for information assurance for the National Security Agency at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland, said cyber security experts fight to preserve national security and the nation’s way of life.
“This education is critical,” George said. “Today the race is for cyberspace. The adversary is unrelenting.”
Phil Berkenbile, director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, said the consortium was launched in Oklahoma in 2002 to build cyber security programs at technology centers and two-year colleges across the state.
It has since expanded into seven other states and encompasses 32 institutions, including the University of Tulsa, with 105 instructors and more than 1,250 students. Besides Oklahoma, the consortium includes the states of Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas.
Programs funded by the grant will offer cyber education security and workforce development training at two-year institutions in the eight states. The consortium will also create centers of excellence in the strategic areas of secure coding, automation, and control systems as well as mobile communications devices.
The consortium’s primary objective is to provide high-quality cyber security programs in at least 19 metropolitan areas within the eight-state region and provide advanced cyber skills to 2,500 students and 3,000 workers to halt the outsourcing of high-tech jobs.
Although the internet has given people new opportunities to exchange information and knowledge, it can also be used as a tool for stealing intellectual property, George said.
“We have to address this threat,” he said. “It’s a very challenging job.”
Technology schools and two-year colleges in Oklahoma were among the first in the U.S. to offer Committee on National Security Systems certification. Rose State College in Midwest City, located east of Oklahoma City, is the only community college in the nation to offer all six CNSS certifications.
Ken Dewey, who heads Rose State’s cyber security educational program, said employer demand is high for people skilled in the field.
“It’s a problem that is going to continue,” Dewey said. He said hackers using networks of computers called botnets can mass thousands of computers to attack a web site and shut it down.
“They can even use your home computer to attack the White House,” Dewey said.
University technology officials said in a recent survey that campus IT security had improved in the past five years, but botnet attacks that could take over entire computer infrastructures still lingered as a constant threat.
The Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education (ACUTA) surveyed computer officials in higher education at the organization’s annual conference in Atlanta in April. The survey found that eight out of 10 IT officials believe their campus infrastructure is safer than it was in 2004, with 6 percent saying they feel less secure.
Still, nearly half of respondents said their campus’s cyber security has been compromised in the last year alone, exposing at least some student information (though 70 percent of these incidents were characterized as minor). About 80 computer administrators completed the survey, an ACUTA spokeswoman said.