Public Affairs, The California State University

CSU Expands Cybersecurity Programs

By Stephanie Thara

Western Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition With the increase of devastatingly destructive cyber attacks in the United States, President Obama has declared that the “cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation” and that “America’s economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on cybersecurity.”

By hosting cyber defense competitions and developing an interdisciplinary cybersecurity curriculum, the CSU is doing its part to produce a skilled cybersecurity workforce.

Since 2008, Cal Poly Pomona has hosted the Western Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, where students from California, Arizona and Nevada spend three days protecting a computer network from an abundant amount of cyber attacks. This year, business, engineering and computer science students from CSU Northridge, San Bernardino, Dominguez Hills and Cal Poly Pomona were among the participants who had the opportunity to apply what they learned in the classroom into the real world.

“Recruiters come to these competitions to hire students that have a hunger for cybersecurity,” said Dan Manson, computer information systems professor at Cal Poly Pomona. “Companies want to see students with relevant hands-on experience and these events are a way to show that off.”

Cybersecurity competitions also offer important insights for educators that help them better understand students’ capabilities and make corresponding adjustments in academic programs.

Cal Poly Pomona is the first of three CSU campuses to be certified as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education (CAE/IAE) as designated by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency. Additional CSU campuses with CAE/IAE designation are Sacramento State and Cal State San Bernardino, both of whom offer cybersecurity students scholarships through the National Science Foundation CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service program.

Furthermore, San José State President Mo Qayoumi—who was recently appointed to the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council—is spearheading plans for one of the nation’s first university-based cybersecurity centers. The center will take a cross-disciplinary approach to workforce development, and the university plans to hire a number of tenure-track faculty members to focus on this endeavor.

In addition to educating college students to become proficient cybersecurity professionals, the CSU reaches out to middle and high school students to teach Los Angeles Unified School District Beyond the Bell and CyberPatriot programsthem the importance of cybersecurity. Since 2011, Cal Poly Pomona has partnered with the Los Angeles Unified School District Beyond the Bell and CyberPatriot programs. In addition to providing cybersecurity mentors, Cal Poly Pomona offers its facilities and computer labs to high school students, a major benefit for schools that lack state-of-the-art computers or the high-speed bandwidth that the university offers.