CYBERCRIME FIGHTERS: THE FEDS WANT YOU!

December 15, 2000

FEATURES & COMMENTARY

Washington, D.C. — Lisa M. Bowman reports that students who want to make a living fighting hackers soon could have more money at their fingertips – provided they’re willing to work for the government for a couple of years.

Last Friday, President Clinton promoted an ROTC-like federal program known by the nickname Cyber Corps, which is designed to train the network security specialists of the future.

The program, which is officially called the Federal Cyber Service Scholarship for Service, would provide scholarships to students who want to study network security for two years. Undergraduates are eligible for grants of up to $8,000 per year, while graduate students could receive as much as $12,000. In exchange for the funding, the students would serve the government as security specialists for two years.

“It’s really hard to get talented people in the government, because we can’t pay them enough,” Clinton said during a speech at the University of Nebraska in Kearny. “You’ve got 27-year-old young people worth $200 or $300 million if they start the right kind of dot-com company.” Clinton said the government could at least get the workers for a few years early in their careers by offering them scholarships.

During his speech, the president also praised the University of Nebraska in Kearny, which has its own program to train cybercrime fighters, saying he’d like to see more universities open such centers.

“One of the biggest threats to the future is going to be cyberterrorism – people fooling with your computer networks, trying to shut down your phones, erase bank records, mess up airline schedules, do things to interrupt the fabric of life,” Clinton said.

The president first unveiled plans for the program nearly two years ago, as part of a government plan that would help attract security workers who might normally go off to work in the private sector. The program also provides funding for faculty who want to sharpen their IT skills.

National Science Foundation funding “Protecting security is a huge issue,” NSF public affairs specialist Charlie Drum said. “This is to provide the people to do it, the soldiers, if you will.” The program is funded through the National Science Foundation, which received money for the project in October.

The NSF already has started soliciting plans from various colleges, and university officials have until Dec. 13 to submit letters of intent and until Jan. 24 to submit their final plan to offer the programs. The training plans could be in place as early as fall 2001.

The government has been the target of many high-profile hacks in the past three years, including breaks into computer systems at the Pentagon, NASA, and the U.S. Navy. Two weeks ago, a hacker pleaded guilty to intruding upon a system that launches unmanned space exploration at NASA. He faced 27 years in prison but will get eight to fourteen months because of his plea.

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