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Need for Cybersecurity Education

By Maurice E. Dawson, Ph.D., D.C.Sc., SMIEEE, Director of the Center for Cyber Security and Forensics Education, Assistant Professor, Illinois Institute of Technology

Maurice E. Dawson, Ph.D., D.C.Sc., SMIEEE, Director of the Center for Cyber Security and Forensics Education, Assistant Professor, Illinois Institute of Technology

America is struggling to fill critical positions in cyber security as cyber attacks continue to rise. As of June 2019, there are 313,735 and a deficient supply of cybersecurity works has been identified through Cyber Seek. Even the federal government has provided funding to promote a network of cybersecurity education, training, and development of a workforce. Initiatives within the Department of Defense has made various cybersecurity certifications required from the technician to engineering skills levels.

As of now, there no such global standard for cybersecurity education accreditation as the majority of countries that have standards set in place are developed nations such as the United States (U.S.), United Kingdom (U.K.), Canada, Isreal, Germany, and Australia. The National Security Agency (NSA) only accredits institutions that are within the U.S. The National Initiative on Cyber Security Education (NICE) Framework  has three main goals which are the following; raise the level of awareness in the national about risks in cyberspace, prepare individuals for entering the cybersecurity workforce, and promote competitiveness in the current cybersecurity workforce. However, in South Africa, there has been emerging research looking at what developed nations have done for developing cybersecurity education. This action could be partly in response to released Wikileak Cables regarding the state of cybersecurity in this nation. The International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) Technical Committee (TC11) on Information Security and Privacy Protection in Processing Systems host an international conference to address these matters; however, the IFIP created the International Professional Practice Partnership (IPS) to standardize IS and Information Technology (IT). IFIP has a long history dating to the 90s, demonstrating the assistance of sharing IT goals and the continued need for building IT education.

"Having a country’s youth embrace new philosophies geared toward STEM and national security is critical for the security in both the federal and commercial sectors"

Other factors are the standard for the NSA and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) means that these organizations would need the ability to look into the details of international programs such as accreditation. Since the Intelligence Community (IC) are the ones that are developing these standards with the guidance of experts, then it is best that this knowledge remains in the states and territories. Thus the need for specific global standards becomes an issue as you have federal agencies providing what is required for them to have the program recognized. These university programs have become a method to align institutions closer to what is needed by the various IC members to be successful in cyber warfare and defend critical infrastructure.

When discussing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs, it is essential to discuss those with a focus on cybersecurity. The NSA and DHS have addressed harmonized security education by creating the Centers for Academic Excellence (CAE). As of 2016, only 8 states do not have CAEs within them.  Both Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico have at least one CAE. This number of accredited programs does not include the ongoing re-accreditation effort to gain Cyber Defense (CD) designation. Of those states and territories, the state with the most CAEs is Texas with 16 total institutions that have accreditation. The number of states with only one institution that boasts a CAE is 13. Approximately 25 states have 3 institutions that meet the CAE criteria. One can visit the NSA CAE page to gain details into the number of CAEs per state, territory, institutional focus on cyber defense education at the 4 years or 2 years, and cyber research. In total for 2015, there are 162 CAEs out of 4,495 total institutions according to the U.S. Census. This number represents only an estimated 3.6% of institutions that hold this accreditation. As of 2019, this number has increased by the overall percentage of institutions that hold this accreditation is extremely low.

A program was created that targets K-12 educational programs for cybersecurity known as CyberPatriot. This initiative was created by the United States Air Force (USAF) to get. CyberPatriot’s mission is to gear youth towards STEM. Countries such as Israel has taken this approach a step further with identifying talent in high school that will later serve the nation. Israel is known as a global force when discussing cybersecurity, and perhaps initiatives such as the selection of military recruits are something that should be mimicked.

To prepare a national workforce, we must be more proactive, creative, and determined how we drastically alter the workforce landscape. Having a country’s youth embrace new philosophies geared toward STEM and national security is critical for the security in both the federal and commercial sectors.  

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