US agency releases cyber-education plan

NIST calls for stronger math and science programs in schools and more graduate research

The U.S. government will work to develop an "unrivaled" cybersecurity workforce and broaden the nation's pool of skilled cyberworkers under a draft cybersecurity education plan released Friday by a U.S. agency.

The goal of the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) plan, released by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), is to improve U.S. cybersecurity by focusing on education, the agency said.

"The cybersecurity vulnerabilities in our government and critical infrastructure are a risk to national security, public safety, and economic prosperity," the agency said in the draft plan. "Now is the time to begin a coordinated national initiative focused on cybersecurity awareness, education, training, and professional development. The United States must encourage cybersecurity competence across the nation and build an agile, highly skilled workforce capable of responding to a dynamic and rapidly developing array of threats."

Many cybersecurity experts and tech vendors have long called for an increased government focus on cybersecurity education and training. NICE grew out of the U.S. White House's Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, released in early 2008.

The plan focuses on public awareness as well as school- and college-based education. One of the plan's goals is to raise awareness of cyberrisks among U.S. residents.

"The American public has grown increasingly dependent on online activities to manage all aspects of daily life and remains largely unaware of the risks threatening their privacy, safety, and financial security," the plan said. "This initiative needs to make more people aware that malicious actors exist and are ready to take advantage of people's willingness to accept information from or provide personal information over the Internet."

NIST also called for elementary and high schools to improve math and science education and to increase the number and quality of computer science courses. New incentives are needed to support graduate-level cybersecurity research, the agency said.

NIST asked for public comments on the draft plan, with responses due by Sept. 12. Comments should be entered into the Comment-Template_Draft-NICE.xls, available at http://go.usa.gov/KFw, and e-mailed to nicestratplan@nist.gov.

The second annual NICE workshop, "Shaping the Future of Cybersecurity Education -- Engaging Americans in Securing Cyberspace," will be Sept. 20 to 22 at the NIST campus in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The workshop will include discussion of the strategic plan. Representatives of the U.S. government, academia and business are expected to attend.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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