The National Science Foundation calls cybersecurity “one of the defining issues of our time.” The U.S. is particularly vulnerable, according to Juniper Research, because of the substantial amount of national and international data located within a wide range of companies, governmental entities and institutions, with little regulation.
Compounding the problem is that the likelihood that, within a few years, the country will be vastly short on cybersecurity talent. It’s possible there could be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions by 2021.
Government entities are taking a proactive stance against this projected skills shortfall by partnering with universities to strengthen U.S. companies and government infrastructure. For example:
- After the city of Atlanta and other government entities suffered cyberattacks in 2018, the University of North Georgia and the FBI created a partnership to better assess cyberthreats and prevent future attacks.
- Florida International University received a grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to fill the cybersecurity talent gap at all levels, from state and local positions to those within national industries and the U.S. government.
- The University of Buffalo won a $2.39 million grant from the National Science Foundation to train future cybersecurity experts.
- The New York State Higher Education Capital Matching Grant Program awarded $5 million to the Rochester Institute of Technology to build a 45,000-square-foot building for the university’s new Global Cybersecurity Institute.
Partnerships and Funding Support Higher Ed Security Programs
It’s the right time for higher education to seek grants to fund cybersecurity efforts. The following government-sponsored opportunities have funded research over the past year, and more funding may be available:
- The NSF is accepting proposals to pilot cybersecurity education programs at community colleges. The most recent data shows the NSF has funded nearly $75 million for cybersecurity research projects in 37 states.
- The National Security Agency doesn’t provide grants, but it does provide guidelines for higher education institutions to be designated as Centers of Academic Excellence in cyber defense and cyber operations. Once a university receives this credential, it can be considered as a grant recipient by various agencies, including the Department of Defense.
- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security supports cybersecurity education in both K–12 and higher education. Grants and partnership opportunities are available through the agency’s Science and Technology division.
- The Department of Energy recently held its CyberForce competition to award grant money based on a simulated cyberattack on the nation’s energy infrastructure. The next competition will be in November.
- The U.S. Army Cyber Command has talked to several universities about partnership possibilities, including Augusta University and the University of Pittsburgh.
State and Educational Partnerships Help Institutions Develop Projects
State governments and higher education agencies are also excellent sources for cybersecurity program funding and facilities, like the one at RIT. For example:
- The University of Central Arkansas built an advanced cyber range with a $500,000 grant from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. The range provides students with a simulated computer network where they can learn to defend against cyberattacks.
- Legislation in Colorado to strengthen data privacy in the state also provided $1.2 million to help Colorado State University expand its cybersecurity program, which will aim to create a broad, multidisciplinary approach to cybersecurity education.