Dec 02 2014

Homeland Security to Expand Student Volunteer Cybersecurity Initiative

A growing need for U.S.-based cybersecurity experts has spurred federal agencies to bolster internship programs.

In the spring, more than 75 of the top college cybersecurity students will have an opportunity to get a foot in the door with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The 2015 DHS Secretary’s Honors Program Cyber Student Volunteer Initiative, which was announced Nov. 24, will give students at two- and four-year colleges a chance to experience hands-on cybersecurity training, mentoring and professional development events at DHS. The program, started in 2013, was expanded to include 70 students in 2014, and in 2015 it is expected to include more than 75 students.

“Through the Department’s Cyber Student Volunteer Initiative, students gain firsthand experience in applying their skills directly to our wide-ranging efforts — from helping to defend the nation’s cybernetworks against attacks to going after criminals who exploit innocent members of the public,” said Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in a news release.

Students studying cybersecurity should have no shortage of job opportunities once they graduate. According to Symantec, there are an estimated 300,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. That is good news for those seeking cybersecurity jobs, but not so for national security or the country’s economic security.

In Homeland Security Today's October/November issue, an article by Ashley Bennet states, "A shortage of cybersecurity professionals has put the United States in a precarious position as organizations in both the public and private sectors face ongoing threats."

The White House’s Foreign Policy page echoes this concern, citing cybersecurity as “one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation.” Through the DHS student initiative and the Department of Defense DC3 Digital Forensics Challenge, federal agencies are hoping to the foster new cybersecurity experts.

Howard University professor Oliver McGee, a former senior policy advisor for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, has expressed concern over the federal government’s ability to attract an adequate talent pool. He told Homeland Security Today that if DHS is unable to attract more domestic cybersecurity professionals, it may have to look for talent outside the country’s borders. Such recruitment methods would be more expensive and "may raise some additional security concerns," McGee said.

Students selected for the DHS Cyber Student Volunteer Initiative will be given assignments in one of the following federal offices and agencies:

  • Office of the Chief Information Officer
  • Office of Intelligence and Analysis
  • National Protection and Programs Directorate
  • Transportation Security Administration
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • U.S. Secret Service

More information on the initiative, including how to apply, is available on the DHS website.


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