Cybersecurity educationCybersecurity education to Help Communities Become More Cyber-Secure

Published 6 September 2021

The NSA helps fund programs aiming to develop a community-wide K-12 cybersecurity program, support local industry and government to be more cyber resilient, and help local academic institutions to develop cybersecurity programs for students.

The National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity, as part of the National Security Agency, has awarded a grant in the amount of $1.67 million to the Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security at the University of Texas at San Antonio to help communities become more cyber secure nationwide.

The CIAS will work with multiple communities during the two-year grant, beginning with Angelo State University and the City of San Angelo, to help develop a community-wide K-12 cybersecurity program, support local industry and government to be more cyber resilient, and help local academic institutions to develop cybersecurity programs for students by helping create Centers of Academic Excellence.

The UTSA team was awarded the grant following a competitive selection process available only to universities identified as Centers of Academic Excellence. UTSA is the only Hispanic Serving Institution to hold three National Center of Excellence designations from the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security.

The CIAS is collaborating with ASU to develop a program that will be transferable and applicable to communities of any size.

Communities nationwide are becoming increasingly targeted by cyber threats - both domestic and foreign - which is why a whole-community approach needs to be taken by communities to protect their citizens, organizations and infrastructures from cyberattacks,” said Dr. Greg White, director of the CIAS. “This NSA grant will enable the CIAS to work with Angelo State University to implement a cybersecurity program that starts with K-12 education and continues on into local businesses, government and the general public.”

The CIAS at UTSA has helped State, Local, Tribal and Territorial (SLTT) entities establish cybersecurity programs since 2002. Cybersecurity exercises, training efforts and assessments for states and communities have also been conducted for nearly 20 years, but this will be the first effort to integrate an entire cybersecurity program within a whole community.

We’re excited about the opportunity to bring our experience and resources into the city of San Angelo,” said Dr. White. “This program will develop sustainable initiatives that will help the whole community become cybersecurity savvy.”

I have served with Dr. White when we were both lieutenants stationed at Offutt AFB, Neb., and majors at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.,” said ASU President Ronnie Hawkins Jr. “I have nothing but the utmost confidence and respect for his vision and wisdom when it comes to cybersecurity. It is an honor to serve with him again; especially in this capacity by ASU contributing to and supporting the students throughout San Angelo by piloting this unique program.”

The two-year pilot program will, in part, establish a K-12 cybersecurity initiative for elementary, middle and high schools that will provide cybersecurity lesson plans, tools and resources to students, teachers and counselors during the school year. It will also expand cybersecurity summer camps and encourage the establishment of CyberPatriot teams and Cyber Threat Defender tournaments.

Additionally, this grant will help establish a Culture of Cybersecurity program that targets K-5 students and a collegiate initiative that will provide an outreach program to area high schools, establish National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition teams, develop certification training and assist 2- and 4-year institutions to meet the requirements for a NSA/DHS Center of Academic of Excellence designation.

Other focus areas will target the establishment of local cybersecurity associations, establishing a continuing education initiative to assist individuals in receiving certifications, a training initiative for non-profit organizations, analysis of current needs for cybersecurity professionals within the community, a community Cybersecurity Day and a whole-community cybersecurity program using the Community Cyber Security Maturity Model to include the establishment of a community Information Sharing and Analysis Organization.

When this grant ends, the city of San Angelo will be the model for other communities across the state and the nation,” said Dr. White. “We look forward to expanding this program to other states during the second year of the pilot.”

This is a first-of-its-kind pilot and will be a ‘game changer’ for the students and citizens here in San Angelo,” President Hawkins said. “We have already spoken to Mayor Brenda Gunter, Dr. Carl Dethloff, superintendent of the San Angelo Independent School District, and Col. Andres Nazario, commander at Goodfellow Air Force Base, about pushing this pilot throughout the city, as well as Tom Green County. This pilot also helps us in our efforts to be recognized as a Center of Academic Excellence by the NSA.”