Kean University in New Jersey has been named the National Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) by the National Security Agency for its programs that prepare cybersecurity professionals to combat cyberattacks rampant in both the public and private sectors.
According to a recent press release, the designation will allow Kean students and faculty to seek funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, and NSA for cybersecurity research grants and fellowships. The CAE-CD program designation will also give the university the opportunity to engage in collaborative research with other NSA National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, Cyber Research, and Cyber Operations.
The designation comes shortly after New Jersey lawmakers passed the Water Quality Accountability Act requiring water providers to develop more stringent cybersecurity policies in response to a cyberattack that disrupted Jersey City Municipal Utilities operations. Authorities in 2020.
Stan Mierzwa, a cybersecurity lecturer and deputy director of Kean’s Center for Cybersecurity who led the university’s designation initiative, said the need to train cybersecurity experts for these scenarios remains critical as schools, manufacturers and other industries are digitizing their operations, creating IT vulnerabilities in the process.
“Defense is extremely important. Today you cannot listen to the news without hearing about some kind of cybersecurity incident or cybercrime incident,” he said of the increase in threats such as ransomware, which the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency cited in an advisory this week as a “growing international threat.”
As cyber threats increase, labor demands also increase. Mierzwa said there are currently nearly 14,000 open cybersecurity positions in the state of New Jersey, according to Cyberseek’s cybersecurity supply and demand heatmap.
“In New York there are over 20,000 open positions,” he said. “If you just look at our region, you’re talking about over 50,000 cybersecurity positions available, so there’s a demand for that in our region.”
According to Mierzwa, the university has worked in recent years to build a multidisciplinary approach to teaching cybersecurity in other fields, such as criminal justice. The school also requires all students to complete cybersecurity awareness training to stay vigilant against common cyber threats such as phishing scams.
“We emphasize a multidisciplinary approach to cybersecurity education. For example, I teach cybersecurity courses in our criminal justice department, and it’s not uncommon for me to have students in our computer science or information technology fields take courses to collaborate with those studying or continuing to study criminal justice,” he said. “One of our main characteristics is our collaboration and our ability to apply this [knowledge] at all levels.
Mierzwa said the university hopes to build on its catalog of courses with the help of funding offered by the NSA-sponsored program to provide students with more opportunities for hands-on computer training and simulation exercises. cybersecurity, among other plans.
“We envision creating a lab with a cyber range to give students real-world experience trying to solve or investigate complex cyber problems,” he said.