UD launches regional initiative to expand cyber security training in Delaware, Maryland

Ensuring the security of the world’s and our own nation’s computers and networks is a key national challenge.

The University of Delaware today announced that it will mount a targeted cyber security initiative to train future cyber sleuths to address this emerging need by developing cyber security-related course offerings and establishing a pipeline of graduates skilled in the theories and practices required to address these challenges.

The announcement comes as a prelude to National Cyber Security Awareness Month, which begins Oct. 1. The project is funded through a $576,102 research grant from the National Science Foundation Regional Cyber Security Education Initiative, of which $416,000 comes to UD.

According to Kenneth Barner, principal investigator on the grant and chair of UD’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the project will be particularly important for Delaware and northern Maryland, “where there is a significant need for trained cyber security graduates critical to large regional employers in, for example, the financial services industry and the military.”

Key partners in the project include Delaware Technical Community College (DTCC) and Harford Community College (HCC), which will establish integrated educational and outreach programs in partnership with UD, and leading government and industrial partners, including the Army Research, Development and Electronics Command (RDECOM), the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and JP Morgan Chase.

According to David Weir, director of UD’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships, the NSF grant is the first step in a broader University initiative on cyber security.

“This is an unusual grant that will enable UD leadership and partners from private, public and academic institutions across two states — Delaware and Maryland — to begin to shape education, research and workforce development for the region,” Weir said.

Under the grant, UD representatives will work with partner institutions to:

  • Expand cyber security courses and a minor at UD that will teach students to design state- of-the-art secure software and systems,
  • Establish a 2+2 program to allow second year DTCC and HCC student to transfer into a four-year UD computer science or computer engineering bachelor’s of science degree programs, and
  • Establish cyber security outreach including an internship program, middle and high school student and teacher summer camps and bridge programs to energize and attract the next generation of cyber security professionals.

As the program develops, Barner and colleagues also envision initiating a master’s degree in cyber security and potentially a 4+1 education program that would allow advanced undergraduate students to complete both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree with one additional year of study. Cyber security student and teacher summer camps and bridge programs will extend the program into the community and help build the pipeline of future generation cyber security professionals.

U.S. Sens. Thomas Carper and Christopher Coons and U.S. Rep. John Carney lent their support to the project in a joint announcement of the funding during a press conference held on UD’s Newark campus Sept. 28.

“A cyber attack is perhaps the greatest looming threat to the United States, and the Cyber Security Education Initiative’s efforts will play an important role not just for Delaware but in investing in the next generation of technology and cyber experts that will improve our nation’s cyber security,” Coons said. “This initiative is a significant collaborative step in understanding and confronting the challenges in the ever-changing realm of cyberspace. I believe in the Cyber security Education Initiative, and I am committed to its success because our nation can’t afford to risk the safety and security of our critical infrastructure.” Coons is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

UD and DTCC have been leaders in developing training programs for cyber security experts since 2010 through their participation in the U.S. Cyber Challenge. This past July, UD’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering hosted the U.S. Cyber Challenge camp on UD’s Newark campus.

UD co-principal investigators on the grant include:

Carl Jacobson, UD vice president for Information Technologies, and his IT group will provide real-world expertise to the project, which Barner calls “an important asset to the program that will develop.”

Article by Karen B. Roberts

Photos by Doug Baker