sealPurdue News

June 26, 2001

Purdue awarded federal funds for computer security training

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University will receive more than $2.3 million from the National Science Foundation to train students in computer security.

Purdue is one of only six universities chosen to receive the federal scholarship funds, which will be distributed over a four-year period. The scholarships will be used by 30 graduate students to obtain master's degrees in computer science with a specialization in computer security. In return, the students will work for the federal government one year for each year of scholarship money they receive.

NSF director Rita Colwell says the scholarships will help meet a critical nationwide need for computer savvy professionals.

"These scholarships will encourage young people to enter the field of information security and assurance and give them an opportunity to put their talents to work at the front lines of government cybersecurity efforts," Colwell says.

In addition to the scholarship funds, Purdue received more than $198,000 in development money from the NSF. The grant will be used to sponsor a faculty development institute in which a computer security curriculum will be developed for beginning information security educators.

Eugene Spafford, computer science professor and director of the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security at Purdue, says the distinction of being a grant recipient speaks to the strength of Purdue's CERIAS program.

"We have what is generally acknowledged to be the premier center in the world," Spafford says.

CERIAS staff conducts multidisciplinary research and education in the fields of computer, network and communications security, in addition to information assurance. Center personnel frequently collaborate with key members of academia, government and industry.

Spafford and Melissa Dark, CERIAS continuing education director, will lead a workshop to develop the faculty institute curriculum. Spafford says Purdue is a good role model for other institutions that want to launch computer security curricula, since Purdue offers 12 courses that have direct application in the field.

He says the need for information security specialists in both the public and private sectors is acute.

"A recent survey conducted by the Computer Security Institute found that almost 90 percent of all businesses reported some suspicious activity," says Spafford. "The loss reported from 186 companies who participated in the survey was a total of more than $377 million. Estimates of total unreported loss are in the hundreds of billions of dollars a year."

Simultaneously, universities are struggling to graduate enough computer security specialists to fill the market demand. An average of only three to five Ph.D. students with in-depth education in information security graduate nationally each year, Spafford says.

In addition to recruiting faculty to participate in the curriculum development workshop, Spafford is accepting applications for the NSF scholarships. The scholarships will be awarded for fall 2001. They will provide tuition, fees and lodging, as well as a monthly stipend and a summer internship.

Prospective master's students can apply for the scholarship by visiting the CERIAS Web site at and following the NSF scholarship link.

In addition to the scholarships, Spafford says there are many other on-campus opportunities for students interested in the field of computer security. These include paid research, fellowship and teaching positions.

Writer: Marydell Forbes, (765) 496-7704,

Sources: Eugene Spafford, (765) 494-7825,

Melissa Dark, (765) 496-6761,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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