Cal Poly joins national cybersecurity educational effort

University starts educational initiative to train students to meet talent needs of cybersecurity industry

California Polytechnic State University has launched an educational initiative that places the school among the scores of universities starting programs to graduate cybersecurity pros.

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The Cal Poly Cybersecurity Center, funded by a grant from Northrop Grumman Foundation, aims to educate "thousands of students in cybersecurity awareness and readiness." Students and faculty will collaborate in research with other academic institutions, the defense industry, private companies and government agencies and research labs.

The center expands on the work the university has been doing through its cybersecurity project lab established two years ago with funding from Raytheon. The new center represents a far more ambitious educational program.

In launching the center, Cal Poly joins scores of schools that have started cybersecurity programs to meet the talent needs of government and private industries. In 2012, the number of cyberattacks against U.S. critical infrastructure alone rose more than 50 percent to 198, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Government agencies and companies within the finance and defense industries have also experienced a steady increase in attacks from hackers trying to steal intellectual property and sensitive documents.

The President Barack Obama administration has called for a national strategy for filling cybersecurity jobs. As part of that effort, the National Security Agency has certified the educational programs of nearly 200 schools as national centers of academic excellence in cybersecurity, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Cal Poly center, spearheaded by the College of Engineering, is scheduled to start holding undergraduate and graduate classes in January at the new Cal Poly — Northrop Grumman Cyber Lab. The San Luis Obispo, Calif., university is in the process of searching for a center director.

The lab will have 32 workstations, a presentation center and a server center that will have all the elements of an enterprise-scale information technology operation. The lab will support student and faculty experimentation in network security and cyber defense, exploitation, attacks, research and development, analytics and visualization.

The foundation provided funding for hardware and software, while the company Northrop Grumman helped design, set up and configure the lab. The teaching facility will have a network connection to the Northrop Grumman Virtual Cyber Lab.

"Our shared investment in the cyber lab will be the foundation for a meaningful cyber partnership between Northrop Grumman and Cal Poly," Ron Smith, vice president for programs and engineering at Northrop Grumman Information Systems, said in a statement released Tuesday.

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Future course offerings may include cryptography engineering, the study of cutting-edge malware research and analysis, and an examination of the major controversies affecting the Internet as a result of the interplay of policy, law and technology.

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