Exclusive: Spy agency seeks cyber-ops curriculum
By Tabassum Zakaria
FORT MEADE, Maryland (Reuters) - The National Security Agency is trying to expand U.S. cyber expertise needed for secret intelligence operations against adversaries on computer networks through a new cyber-ops program at selected universities.
The cyber-ops curriculum is geared to providing the basic education for jobs in intelligence, military and law enforcement that are so secret they will only be revealed to some students and faculty, who need to pass security clearance requirements, during special summer seminars offered by NSA.
It is not easy to find the right people for cyber operations because the slice of the hacker community that would make a quality cyber operator inside the government is only a sliver.
The "quality cyber operators" the NSA is looking for are few and far between, says Neal Ziring, technical director at the agency's Information Assurance Directorate.
"We're trying to create more of these, and yes they have to know some of the things that hackers know, they have to know a lot of other things too, which is why you really want a good university to create these people for you," Ziring told Reuters in an interview at NSA's headquarters in Maryland.
NSA has two main missions: to protect U.S. government computer networks and to collect foreign intelligence through electronic means like satellites and decode it.
Of 20 universities that applied, only four received this week the new designation of Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations: Dakota State University, Naval Postgraduate School, Northeastern University and University of Tulsa.
Out of 10 requirements, the two most lacking at many schools were courses on "reverse engineering" - or how to gain knowledge of a technology or product to reproduce it - and cellular communications and mobile technologies, NSA officials said. Continued...