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NIST Tackles Cybersecurity Education

The National Institute of Standards and Technology will spearhead the national cybersecurity workforce development and awareness campaign.

As part of the federal government's Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, much of which was recently declassified, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has been enlisted to spearhead a new nationwide cybersecurity education initiative, the White House and Department of Commerce announced.

In an effort first revealed on April 19, NIST will be in charge of a multi-agency, four-track effort called the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, which focuses on awareness, education, and workforce development.

Much of the initiative focuses on developing the next generation of cybersecurity workers for government. One of those four tracks, for example, will fund education programs for schoolchildren, college students, and participants in vocational programs in an effort headed up by the Department of Education and the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy.

"The government sees it's going to need to stimulate the next generation of cyber workers," says Lynn McNulty, consultant at (ISC)2, the organization responsible for the popular CISSP certification for cybersecurity pros. "This is a growth profession, and I think the government is going to lead by example."

NIST's role dovetails well with the already central role in developing and driving federal cybersecurity standards, says Dave Graziano, Cisco's operations director for security for the U.S. public sector. "Considering NIST is coming up with the metrics, it makes sense that they should play a role in helping to educate the cyber workforce," he says.

Another track will take on training workers to meet government's cybersecurity needs in everything from general IT to information assurance to domestic law enforcement to intelligence efforts. "We will intensify our ongoing training and professional development of the existing federal cybersecurity workforce," secretary of commerce Gary Locke said in a speech last Thursday.

However, that's not the only piece of NICE that will take on the federal workforce. The Office of Personnel Management will lead an effort to redefine how cybersecurity jobs in government are classified, and lay out the requisite skills needed and the strategies to recruit and keep cybersecurity employees in government jobs.

Beyond formal education, the final piece of NICE is about improving public awareness of cybersecurity risks from identity theft to cyber predators and fraudsters, which is being headed up by the Department of Homeland Security. The plan is to use public service campaigns to promote "responsible use of the Internet" and encourage cybersecurity as a popular career path.

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