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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has identified cyber threats as one of the most “serious economic and national security challenges we face.” And cybersecurity has emerged in recent months as a major issue at both the national and state levels. Now, a new DHS program is inviting community college students to get hands-on experience in the field, as part of the agency’s effort to build a world-class cybersecurity team.
Philadelphia is one of more than 30 cities that will serve as host labs for the Cyber Student Initiative, part of the Secretary’s Honors Program, which seeks to attract and help train recent graduates to work for DHS. Interested community college students pursuing studies in cybersecurity-related fields should apply for the non-paid positions by May 3. DHS launched the Cyber Student Initiative to strengthen its outreach to students at community colleges, including veterans, in response to a set of recommendations issued by DHS’s CyberSkills taskforce last October.
“Student’s will get hands-on experience with cybersecurity professionals by participating in challenging work projects and real-life cybersecurity learning scenarios,” says DHS spokeswoman Nicole Stickel. She adds that participants will be assigned to projects that complement their existing cybersecurity skills, and that they will learn to apply science, mathematics, engineering, security and forensics concepts to “real-time cyber tasks.”
Cyber threats are broadly defined as attacks against computer or other information systems of companies, governments or other organizations. These attacks are normally an effort to steal information or make changes to the systems and can be initiated by governments, hackers or other groups.
In the past few years, the cybersecurity field has grown rapidly both in the Greater Philadelphia region and around the world, says Scott Laliberte, president of the Delaware Valley branch of the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA-DV). ISSA is an international nonprofit group of information security professionals and practitioners. Laliberte attributes the growth to an increase in the number of cyber threat incidents and more media coverage of such incidents.
Laliberte says ISSA-DV is seeing an increase in the number of students interested in entering the cybersecurity and information security fields. The organization has always offered student memberships but it has made a special push to attract students in the past two years, holding meetings at Temple University and West Chester University.
Meanwhile, Temple has started a Masters of Science in Information Technology Auditing and Cyber-Security program. As an introduction to the program, the school recently announced it would offer professional certificates in ITACS.
Program Director Dr. Richard Flanagan says both programs give IT and accounting shop workers in database or server management “a chance to train those skills in an area that’s much faster-growing.”
The programs have attracted a good amount of interest, he says, adding that he received 10 inquiries about the professional certificate program in the last week. Interest in the field is growing almost exponentially, “because there’s [sic] jobs.”
Flanagan says he has received more calls from employers potentially interested in hiring his students than “I have students to give them.”