November 2, 2011

Training students to prevent cybercrime

The UW has won a $2.1 million federal grant to train graduate students in the burgeoning field of information assurance and cybersecurity.

The four-year Scholarship for Service grant will eventually provide full-ride scholarships and stipends to 18 graduate students at the Seattle campus and UW Tacomas Institute of Technology.

The program is part of a federal initiative to increase the number of professionals protecting the governments information infrastructure. These are the experts who prevent and respond to cyber attacks on military, power, transportation and other systems critical to the publics physical and economic well-being.

“We are ultimately training people who can lead solutions to this problem,” said Barbara Endicott-Popovsky, director of the UW Center for Information Assurance and Cybersecurity and the grants principal investigator. The grant recipients are Chuck Costarella and Michael Schweiger on the Tacoma campus, and Ginger Armbruster and Aaron Alva on the Seattle campus.

“Our job is to immerse them in cybersecurity,” Endicott-Popovsky said.

After earning their masters degrees, recipients must work for the federal government one year for each year of scholarship received, up to two years total.

The grants are available through the three dozen universities in the country meeting the stringent requirements to be designated Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education or Research.

The UW is the only university in Washington state that has such a designation. Thats due in large part to the collaboration of the UW Tacoma Institute, UW Seattles Information School, and the Computer Science and Engineering Department that led to creation of the Center for Information Assurance and Cybersecurity.

Beyond assisting the individual scholarship recipients, the program will strengthen the graduate program of the Institute of Technology overall and help attract more grants, said Sam Chung, associate professor of Computer Science and Systems and Information Technology and Systems at UW Tacoma.

The field of information assurance and cybersecurity is brimming with high-paying jobs that cant be filled quickly enough, Endicott-Popovsky said. She said her students who earn a certificate in cybersecurity typically have two to three job offers from which to choose, even in the lackluster economy.

Student interest in the field is soaring.

“My classes doubled last year, theyre going up in size again this year,” Endicott-Popovsky said. “It will be even better next year.”

The program is funded by the National Science Foundation and sponsored by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.