sealPurdue News

March 24, 2002

Purdue center receives grant to boost number of security experts

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Security experts from CERIAS, the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security at Purdue University, will lead a nationwide program to train educators on practices designed to better secure the information stored on computers and electronic networks.

The National Security Agency has awarded CERIAS $2.7 million to develop a Center of Excellence and Faculty Development for Information Assurance. Purdue is one of only two universities chosen to receive the funds, which will be distributed over a three-year period. The University of Tulsa also was awarded a grant to establish a similar center.

The new program will bring 75 faculty from institutions across the nation to the Purdue campus for intense summer courses in information security. The faculty members will then return to their institutions and implement programs to educate and train undergraduate and graduate students at their schools. Participants also will work to establish K-12 programs within their regions.

"This new center will allow CERIAS to expand the educational programs already in place and lead the nation in taking a systemic, long-term approach to address security skills in the work force," said Melissa Dark, continuing education coordinator at CERIAS and director of the project.

"By training faculty to become specialists, we can expedite the education process in a 'pay it forward' kind of manner," Dark said. "While we might only be able to educate 30 students each year at Purdue, each faculty participant can in turn help educate 30 students in their locality, thus allowing us to make exponential gains in the numbers of security specialists."

Though the need for information security specialists in both the public and private sectors is acute, Dark said universities are struggling to graduate enough computer security specialists to fill the market demand. An average of only three to five doctoral students with in-depth education in information security graduate nationally each year, Dark said.

"Right now, there's a large gap between the need for security specialists and the number of people trained in this area," she said.

CERIAS (pronounced "serious") is widely recognized as the world's foremost academic center in information security and privacy. Organized as a multidisciplinary center at Purdue, more than 100 faculty and graduate students carry out research and educational programs in privacy, computer and network protection, e-commerce, cybercrime, computer-based terrorism, and national defense.

The new Center of Excellence and Faculty Development for Information Assurance will bring faculty from across the nation to Purdue for up to eight weeks of summer coursework and hands-on training. Money from the National Security Agency grant will be used to help offset costs for the faculty participants.

During their time at Purdue, participants will build, test and evaluate laboratory exercises to take back to their own institutions. The group also will develop programs that can be used to work with K-12 teachers and students in their home communities.

"Our hope is to raise awareness and understanding of the field among educators and students who will become the college students of tomorrow," Dark said. "By developing these satellite programs in areas from which faculty participants live and work, we will be able to broaden our reach and impact many different regions of the country."

The exercises and programs developed by the participants will be used to form a repository of instructional materials that may be made available to educators nationwide, Dark said.

"The shortage of people with technical training or knowledge in information security is not due to lack of interest, but is based on the fact that there simply aren't enough established programs to prepare security specialists," she said.

The first group of participants will begin training at Purdue next summer. Dark said those being sought for the program are faculty with technical skills in areas such as engineering, computer science, computer education and management information programs that stress technical knowledge.

Writer: Susan Gaidos, (765) 494-2081;

Source: Melissa Dark, (765) 496-6761,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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