NSA, DHS Recognize Top Cyber Defense Schools

Multiple colleges and universities were recently designated National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The designated schools include the University of Delaware (UD), University of Cincinnati’s Information Technology School (UC), University of Missouri–St. Louis (UMSL), University of West Florida (UWF), and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s (ERAU) Daytona Beach Campus.

NSA and DHS jointly sponsor the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) program, which aims to reduce vulnerability in our national information infrastructure by promoting higher education and research in cyber defense and producing professionals with cyber defense expertise for the nation.

According to the ERAU, information security is one of the fastest-growing and best-compensated fields in the information technology industry. The estimated number of current cybersecurity job openings exceeds 260,000 and is expected to increase almost 20 percent in the next 10 years, according to Cybersecurity Ventures.

The designation will support the ERAU’s research in a number of fields, including cybersecurity in aerial systems, aeronautical navigation and avionics, network security and forensics, and applied cryptography.

“The new CAE designation for the Daytona Beach Campus offers research opportunities for our students that are only available at a few universities in the country, while also boosting our program to help meet the growing national demand for highly-skilled cybersecurity professionals,” said Dr. Remzi Seker, Director of CyBASE and Professor of Computer Science in the College Engineering.

Karen Leuschner, CAE program manager for the NSA, told UD that cybersecurity education is one of the most important keys to solving the current cybersecurity talent gap. “The critical shortage of professionals with these skills highlights the importance of higher education as a solution to defending America’s cyberspace,” said Leuschner.

Solving the cybersecurity talent gap will require educating students from a multi-disciplinary viewpoint, which includes a focus on the technical and business aspects of cybersecurity, according to UMSL’s Assistant Professor of Computer Science Jianli Pan.

Pan said UMSL’s Cybersecurity Program is “special because it is a joint effort between the Computer Science and Information Security departments. Through close coordination we offer two parallel tracks for students with different backgrounds, which provides more choices for the students to pursue different specialties and achieve their academic goals.”

“The students also can explore more in-depth technical aspects of cybersecurity or study the business or management sides of cybersecurity,” Pan said. “The program really offers students the best chance regionally to be successful cybersecurity professionals.”

UC advocates a similar approach. UC’s School Head and Associate Professor Hazem Said explained that their program supplements the technical skills necessary for cybersecurity expertise with contextual knowledge of business and other disciplines.

“For the students, this designation significantly increases the value of their degree,” Said stated. “The CAE-CDE designation opens experiential experiences in highly advanced and critical functions of the government and the private sector.”

Through the designation, schools are extending their cybersecurity efforts beyond the campus environment. The Florida Center for Cybersecurity, for example, has facilitated a collaboration between UWF and the University of South Florida in Tampa to enhance cybersecurity interest and education across the state.

“We’ve made tremendous progress at UWF in the past few years, enhancing our programs and research, helping to position UWF as a regional leader in cybersecurity,” said Dr. Eman El-Sheikh, director of the UWF Center for Cybersecurity. “We truly value the statewide collaborations that the Florida Center for Cybersecurity makes possible. It allows us to work together to enhance cybersecurity across the State of Florida in addition to our own community.”

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