... ATE SHOWCASE
Safety in Numbers
BY ROBERT SPEAR AND
NSF-funded centers help colleges train a new
generation of cybersecurity professionals
In an age where everything from personal phone records to credit card statements to bank balances and Social Security numbers is accessible to any hacker with the means to find it, the need for professionals capable of protecting sensitive electronic data has never been higher. Given the economic demand for such a technical skill set, it’s only natural that community colleges would serve as a training ground for these professionals. Why, then, have enrollments in computer information systems (CIS) and information technology (IT) been in steady decline for nearly
Experts say efforts to maintain the status quo have prevented many colleges from
branching out into new and emerging fields of study. Many CIS/IT faculty who have
retired have not been replaced, and college IT departments are shrinking. As a result,
senior administrators have placed pressure on faculty members to retrain and retrench.
One emerging job sector neglected by colleges is cybersecurity, also called information assurance (IA) education—this, despite the fact that the U.S. Bureau of
Labor Statistics has projected tremendous growth for cybersecurity-related jobs in
the next 10 years. (For more, see www.bls.gov/oco/ocos305.htm.)
Some blame the problem on a lack of qualified teachers.
Many college faculty members indeed are not equipped to teach these courses
and are not aware of professional training opportunities to improve their skill sets.
Thanks to the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Advanced Technological
Students take part in classroom discussions at the Cyber Watch Center at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland.
Education (ATE) program, efforts are
under way to change that.
For the past eight years, the NSF has
funded three ATE centers in cybersecurity: Cyber Watch at Prince George’s
Community College (PGCC) in Maryland
(cyberwatch center.org); the Center for
System Security and Information Assurance (CSSIA) at Moraine Valley Community College (MVCC) in Illinois (cssia.
org); and the Cyber Security Education
Consortium (CSEC) at the University of
Tulsa, Oklahoma ( cseconline.org).
These centers provide community
colleges nationally with assistance and
support in program and course development, faculty development, student development, and any other issues related
to cybersecurity training and education.
Cyber Watch even provides faculty
at member community colleges with
financial support in pursuing graduate
IA degrees and/or certificates. By using
the IA courses and model programs
developed and made available by CSSIA,
CSEC and Cyber Watch, and by taking
advantage of the professional development opportunities offered by these
three ATE centers, community colleges
can grow their own cybersecurity training programs. Cyber Watch currently
has 50 members ( 36 community colleges
and 14 universities), and that number is
growing. A number of these colleges are
now developing their own IA programs
and becoming members of the broader
“The guidance, professional development, and opportunity for graduate
education offered to our faculty by
the Cyber Watch Center have directly
affected the curriculum offered in
information systems technology at
Maryland’s Hagerstown Community
College (HCC),” says Margaret Spivey,