There's nothing like a little reality to shake people up.
When hackers brought down top Internet sites like Yahoo!, Amazon.com, eBay and ZDNet with their denial-of-service attacks in February, nightly newscasts and vexed experts speculated that the consequences could have been dire.
That's what JMU President Linwood H. Rose had warned
a full month earlier when
"Our information systems, if not carefully protected, may be accessed by those whose intentions are much more serious than just mischief," Rose said.
The JMU president was in-vited to participate in a White House press conference to help President Bill Clinton announce his National Plan for Information Systems Protection. Clinton also announced new budget proposals to increase the number of information security professionals and strengthen U.S. defenses against growing threats to computer systems, networks and critical information technology infrastructure.
The U.S. president called on Rose because JMU is regarded as the leader in information security education and is one of seven universities officially designated by the National Security Agency as Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education.
"We are very pleased that our program has served in the role of national leadership in information security education and is being recognized by the president," Rose said. "We are eager to do all we can to help solve the critical need for information security professionals."
JMU offers the country's only graduate program in information security (called INFOSEC for short). And as the world's only INFOSEC program delivered completely online, it addresses head-on the critical shortage of qualified professionals by making access to an education available from anywhere in the world.
What's at stake, Rose said at the White House, is the security of vital operations like power companies, banking and finance, air transportation, water supply and emergency services.
"To protect these systems," he said, "we must have more information assurance people -- people who have the talent and expertise to evaluate system vulnerabilities, who understand encryption methodologies to protect critical data, and who are able to design trusted systems and provide for intruder monitoring and detection."
The Department of Commerce has projected that through 2006, there will be a need for 1.3 million cyber security experts in the workforce, and that the nation's colleges and universities will only be able to supply a total of 26,000 per year, says JMU's INFOSEC program director Allan Berg. The shortage is so critical, he adds, that business and industry have resorted to raiding college campuses of their computer science professors. "Corporate America is eating the seed corn that grows the next crop."
Clinton's information security initiatives include a $25 million Federal Cyber Services Training and Education Program to help meet that critical demand. One of its key points is a program that will allow scholarship recipients to exchange one year of paid college education for two years of federal service in information security.
JMU's enrollment numbers also reveal how great the need is. Since the two-year, 10-course master's program was first offered in 1997, enrollment has jumped from 20 to 84, and Berg expects 110 students in September 2000.
Clients include the FBI and CIA, the military, the Department of Defense, Federal Reserve Board, Patent Office and the National Security Agency. Other companies and agencies have approached Berg about enrolling whole groups of their employees in the program, and interest is worldwide.
"We've had emails from Zambia, Singapore, Australia
and Portugal recently," Berg says. Participation from remote locations
is possible because only the proctored exams are administered face-to-face
at various locations around the world. Berg personally arranges these
exams for each student so they can remain in the workforce, where they're
needed, while they are in
"And we can offer top-notch adjunct faculty members from anywhere in the world too," Berg says, "professors whose expertise is on the forefront of a field where the information is so perishable that no one course is taught the same way twice. In information assurance, the shelf life is six months."
Berg is now working with Kenneth Bahn in the College of Business to offer an M.B.A. with a concentration in information security. It too will be the only one of its kind when it opens in August.
"The Cyber Service model advanced in the president's plan will provide incentives to attract students in greater numbers," Rose said at the White House. "Universities have begun to address this workforce need, but if we are to accelerate the numbers of competent professionals at the rate required, federal support for faculty development and student assistance is essential. Without external stimulus and support, we will simply fail to protect our country's information infrastructure."
"By empowering higher education to be a part of
the solution to the national information security problem," Rose
concluded, "I am confident that the president has set forth a plan
that will provide the nation and its citizens with the assurance that
our businesses, our government and our