If the National Security Agency has been rattled at all by the revelations of its secret surveillance programs by Edward Snowden, it’s doing a good job of hiding it. The NSA even announced a new program, in a partnership with the Department of Homeland Security and 181 Universities across the country, to help train the next generation of analysts and cybersecurity experts.
The NSA says its program is designed to secure the nation’s infrastructure against the looming threat of a cyberattack, a threat that security experts say the US is dreadfully unprepared for. In 2013, vulnerabilities were exposed that show power plants, dams, financial institutions, airplanes and ships are all vulnerable to hacker attacks.
Schools can qualify to be a “National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance or Cyber Defense” if they meet criteria defined by the NSA and DHS. The program will then train students in the C programming language, networking, discrete math and cyber defense under requirements set by the NSA that would qualify them to work for the agency. At some schools, private companies are also getting involved to recruit directly from the program.
The University of Maryland has used a $1.1 million donation from Northrop Grumman to create a multidisciplinary program called Advanced Cybersecurity Experience for Students. The program will combine computer science, engineering and business to analyze problems with cybersecurity as more than just a technical issue.
Given what people now know about the NSA, the programs may also be training a generation of students prepared to take over spy programs like PRISM, XKeyscore, MUSCULAR and others in addition to helping businesses guard against cyberattacks. Only time will tell if these programs will also train the next NSA whistleblower.