Cyber Aces program introduced, designed to train tech talent, cyber defense
Published: Monday, September 23, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 23, 2013 23:09
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell has announced a new program designed to provide training for students in order to improve their cyber skills and to identify talent in the cyber field. The Delaware Cyber Aces Program aims to give students the opportunity to display their ability, as well as train them in the cyber defense field.
Chase Cotton, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, has been involved in training students in technology for several years. He said Delaware is one of the leaders in cyber education, and Cyber Aces programs are currently active in several other states. Cyber Aces specifically reinforces computer resource managers, operating systems and computer networking and system administration, Cotton said.
“Those three basic subjects, you have to understand those well in order to understand how they might be vulnerable, and what you can do to protect them,” Cotton said. “That’s the knowledge base that Cyber Aces is aiming for.”
These basic topics are essential to being able to do more sophisticated things with computers and computer safety, Cotton said. He said his department is working on creating both a major and a minor focused around cyber defense and cyber protection. He said many daily operations are run through computers, and therefore, it makes sense to train people in what to do in case of a technological problem or cyber attack. If the university is going to teach students how to create computer-related hardware and software, students should also learn what could happen if something goes wrong, Cotton said.
The program does not have a specific criteria participants would have to meet in order to be considered for admittance, although those with higher computer knowledge going in may be able to grasp the teachings of the program a bit easier, Cotton said. One of the reasons the program is not closed to high school and college students is because the state is aware there are many people who wish to change careers, and technological fields are one of the more popular careers these days, Cotton said.
“In Wilmington, we have this huge financial industry that came here years ago,” Cotton said. “They do financial services and those computers are located here, as well as many of their security professionals are here. The other thing is that the army just moved their largest research facility from northern New Jersey to Aberdeen, Maryland. They have 10,000 scientists and engineers there. We’re just stepping up to meet the need.”
Elayne Starkey, the Chief Security Officer of Delaware, said Delaware has been a leader in cyber-based efforts during the past several years, and the state is attractive to programs like Cyber Aces in part due to its small size. She said programs like the Cyber Aces are gaining importance because while the cyber world is ever expanding, there is a “critical shortage” of people who are skilled enough and properly equipped to defend that world.
“For a state, we are pretty agile,” Starkey said. “We have a good working relationship, and that’s combined with there are a lot of people in Delaware who are extremely passionate about cyber security, in particular cyber security training and training of the next generation of cyber professionals.”
Starkey said one drawback of Cyber Aces is there will be some significant cost at the back end of the program, mostly due to the setup of the website that trains participants, although there is no payment required for participants. She said they hope the free cost will attract their main demographic targets, which are unemployed workers, students and veterans. The members of these groups do not always have sufficient money to pay for the type of training that Cyber Aces offers, Starkey said, but there is often a need for further education or job training.
Starkey also said Delaware’s registration numbers for the Cyber Aces program, so far, are the highest per capita of any state that has signed up for the program. She said there are several efforts going on that are trying to encourage people to enter the program, including at Delaware State University, Wilmington University and the university itself, among other places.
Junior Ron Cichocki said he thinks it is a good thing cyber-awareness is starting to gain more traction in Delaware. He said he believes it would be beneficial for programs like Cyber Aces to spread to even more states.
“If you look at it like a global thing, computers hold everything,” Cichocki said. “If a hacker gets in a bad mood, there are not a lot of barriers that he wouldn’t be able to break through if he wanted to do a lot of damage.”