Carnegie Mellon Educates Next Generation of Information-Security Experts


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Security and Survivability

This article was originally published in News at SEI on: September 1, 2002

Carnegie Mellon University is working on a program designed to increase the number of information-security experts in the workforce. Stephen Cross, director of the SEI, explains that the program, which is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), provides participants with the knowledge and expertise to develop and deliver curricula in information security. The program is intended to increase the number of PhD-level researchers in information security at historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions.

“Creating a more diverse workforce, both within the SEI and within the software engineering community as a whole, is one of our top priorities at the SEI,” Cross says. “We are very excited to be partnering with these educational institutions. The training and experiences shared in this program lay the foundation to help create a new generation of Internet-security experts who will help assure the protection of our information infrastructure.”

The need for qualified information-security personnel and educators is great. A June 1999 Department of Commerce Report, “The Digital Workforce,” estimates that the United States will require more than 1.3 million new highly skilled information technology workers between 1996 and 2006. The National Plan for Information Systems Protection also identifies this critical shortage and further highlights the acute shortage in the number of trained information-security personnel. The National Plan recognizes training and education as key solutions in defending America’s cyberspace.

Participants from Howard University, Morgan State University, and the University of Texas at El Paso gathered recently in Pittsburgh, PA, to acquire knowledge and educational resources to teach survey-level courses in information security to advanced undergraduate and first-year graduate students at their universities.

The courses were delivered by staff of the SEI and CERT Coordination Center, the nation’s first and best-known computer emergency response team. Other distinguished faculty members from Carnegie Mellon’s H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management (Heinz School), School of Computer Science, and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering also participated.

During the first two weeks, participants received basic instruction and training in information security, including discussion of how information security intersects with other academic disciplines. The third week was devoted to curriculum development. The participants worked with instructional-design experts from the SEI and with Dr. Corey Schou, director of the National Information Assurance Training and Education Center (NIATEC) at Idaho State University and chairperson of the National Colloquium for Information Systems Security Education. The final week of the program was devoted to presentation of current and future research by the participants and to the development of research collaborations between
participants and researchers at Carnegie Mellon.

One of the participants, Dr. Wayne Patterson, is a senior fellow at Howard University’s graduate school and professor of computer science with the school’s Department of Systems and Computer Science in the College of Engineering, Architecture, and Computer Science. Patterson found the program very beneficial. He says that the Carnegie Mellon program meshed well with his department’s goal of developing a PhD program in information security. “This program will help us develop a computer-security emphasis in our doctoral program,” Patterson says. “We [the participants] are all committed to looking for joint collaboration in research and curriculum development. We are all interested in continuing to move this forward.” He adds that the four universities are developing a proposal to submit to the NSF to fund curriculum and research development.

The NSF funding paid for the participants’ salary, plus lodging, per diem, and incidentals. Additionally, three round trips to Pittsburgh and two additional trips during the 2002-2003 academic year will enable the participants to build relationships and continue research collaborations and mentoring.

In May 1999, the National Security Agency (NSA) designated Carnegie Mellon as a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance. The NSA established the Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education Program to increase the capacity of U.S. higher education institutions to produce professionals in this field. This program is an example of the outreach and partnership efforts called for in the National Plan for Information Systems Protection.

Donald J. McGillen, executive director of Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Computer and Communications Security, is the coordinator of Carnegie Mellon’s activities as a Center for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education. “With the availability of a great resource like the CERT Coordination Center, along with distinguished Carnegie Mellon faculty members, Carnegie Mellon is uniquely qualified to help other institutions develop new programs and expand existing programs in information security,” McGillen says. “The expertise and knowledge that the CERT/CC has developed since 1988 provide an unequaled level of quality, relevance, and credibility to both degree-based and executive programs.”

In addition to funding this program, the NSF also competitively awarded grants to six of the Centers of Academic Excellence to fund scholarships for students who enroll in programs in information security and, upon graduation, enter service with a government agency as members of the Federal Cyber Corps. Currently, 18 students are attending Carnegie Mellon on these scholarships.

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