Security Experts:

NCSA Teams with Department of Education to Push Cybersecurity Training

Initiative Will Focus on Creating Cyber Education Programs for K-12 through Career and Technical Education Levels.

The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), acting on behalf of the National Cybersecurity Education Council, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the US Dept. of Education (DOE), to establish cybersecurity related training programs in schools across the nation, grades K-12.

The NCSA and Microsoft recently conducted research, discovering that more than one-third of the K-12 teachers in the US didn’t receive a single minute of formal training for Internet related safety or ethics topics last year. Those that did get training didn’t receive enough. This creates a gap, where the kids are not able to turn to teachers for help, leaving them to fend for themselves.

"Our future depends on a digital citizenry that can use the Internet safely, securely, ethically and productively," said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance.

"Today, the United States faces a daunting challenge. We need to build a cybersecurity ready workforce trained to deal with a constantly changing digital infrastructure that is protected against a broad range of cyber threats. This broad effort is critical because cybersecurity and digital safety touches everyone."

The signed agreement will support most of the educational efforts listed in President Obama’s Cyberspace Policy Review, which called for the nation to “build an education system that will enhance understanding of cybersecurity and allow the United States to retain and expand upon its scientific, engineering, and market leadership in information technology.”

Accordingly, established programs are already promoting cybersecurity awareness, formal cybersecurity education, cybersecurity workforce structure, and cybersecurity workforce training and professional development, in several areas, but the NCSA wants this expanded, and moved further into the classroom.

"Our children live in an interconnected technology-based world with a growing need for digital skill sets," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

"An education that incorporates tools to understand, navigate and operate technology will encourage students to exercise awareness when using digital platforms while helping better prepare them for the jobs of the future."

The only down side is that often a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, is little more than a gentlemen’s agreement. While it can be a binding contract, that would depend on the exact wording. In this case, because the DOE is involved, the MOU likely established a formal relationship. This means that curriculum, and larger training programs are many years off, but at least it is a step in the right direction.

Related Reading: Cyber Security Awareness Month - A Checklist

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.