Academic programs designated by NSA, DHS give students better shot at advancement in high-stakes, high-dollar field of cyber security

Paul Williams, chief technology officer for Gray Hat Research Corp. in Houston, said he looks for “the heroes of tomorrow” when hiring for his company and its clients, because true information assurance requires getting ahead of the curve and seeing the big picture.

“What the industry is looking for is the geniuses – this middle layer where expertise is so lacking,” he said. “At the high end, enterprise security really is rocket science. . . They need people who will ask: ‘How do we cost-effectively change the paradigm of this company so that we can do more with this money?’ We’re talking about using what you have today to mitigate the greatest risk.”

Meanwhile, last month the Partnership for Public Service, a Washington-based advocacy group focused on government service, issued a report detailing serious problems within the professional community charged with protecting the government’s networks.

Its authors made several recommendations to the Obama administration, emphasizing that securing national interests requires building “a vibrant, highly trained and dedicated federal cyber-security work force.”

Anne M. Rogers, director of information safeguards for Waste Management in Houston, lauds the approach taken at the University of Houston, which was named last month a national center of academic excellence in information assurance education by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security at the 13th Colloquium for Information Systems Security Education in Seattle.

“One reason we have cyber security problems is that people have focused mainly on software features and functions without considering security. That led to a lot of buggy software – things built with inherent vulnerabilities. These systems may do wonderful things, but, if data leaks out or hackers easily get in and out of them, we lose,” she said. “So, it’s really important to build and assess for integrity, security and adequate control. The UH program brings this focus.”

Ninety-six institutions across the U.S. have been designated centers of academic excellence, and the state of Texas now has eight of them. UH’s designation is the first for the Houston area, and it means a lot to UH College of Technology instructional associate professor Edward Crowley, who headed up the rigorous application process.

One Comment

  1. Alisdair McKenzie Aug 18, 2009 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Several leaders in the field lack confidence in the efficacy of the CAE program. See Gene Spafford’s post and others comments at http://www.cerias.purdue.edu/site/blog/post/centers_of_academic_adequacy/ . Spaff explains why Purdue is now longer part of the CAE program. Excellence is by definition relatively rare, only in Lake Woebegon can all the children be above average!

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