Congress is expected to send a bill to the White House soon that will strengthen and clarify the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) role as the main federal agency overseeing civilian cybersecurity.
Such a law would also strengthen national support for the creation of more skilled jobs in the field, according to officials. With Maryland’s location and many federal agencies in the region, there is the potential of significant growth in the Mid-Atlantic region.
“There is considerable opportunity in the broad field of cybersecurity throughout Maryland because of the state’s significant contributions to both government and industrial security efforts,” said Secretary of the Maryland Department of Information Technology, Michael G. Leahy.
The DoIT has no “specific program,” he said, to train potential employees. Instead, it relies on the states’ universities and community college systems “to find entry-level employees and on the availability of an experienced workforce seeking opportunities throughout the state.”
The nonprofit Universities.com, LLC offers a researched judgment of the best graduate and undergraduate colleges and universities in Maryland and other states, which teach cybersecurity.
One of Maryland’s best on that list is the University of Maryland University College, which was one of the earliest cybersecurity education programs in the state, founded in 2010.
Emma Garrison-Alexander, D.M., vice dean of UMUC’s graduate programs in cybersecurity, said that the preponderance of federal agency headquarters in Maryland “amplifies the reason that cybersecurity curricula exist at UMUC and other universities in the state and also amplifies the need because we are right in the center of it all.”
She said having the agency hubs nearby helps educate the students and the UMUC is acutely aware of shifting job market needs.
“It helps us know that what we are teaching targets the right areas that are currently needed by a government agency or an enterprise,” Garrison-Alexander said.
A large percentage of UMUC cyber students are working adults, said Garrison-Alexander, and many are career changers seeking to latch on to a growing industry. Also helping is that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) offers tuition discounts to students at UMUC and other local universities.
The bipartisan Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act bill was first introduced into The U.S. House more than a year ago. Last week the Senate passed it and sent it back to the house for clarifications. The act establishes a new cybersecurity agency within DHS as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Agency and places it on equal footing as the Secret Service and FEMA, according to the bill’s sponsor, Texas Congressman Michael T. McCaul.
In terms of expediting support for employment opportunities, the bill offers, “To coordinate training and other support to the elements and personnel of the Department, other Federal Government agencies, and State, local, tribal and territorial government agencies that provide information to the Department, or are consumers of information provided by the Department.”
Teamwork in cybersecurity is a must these days, according to Garrison-Alexander and Leahy.
She said the university teaches teamwork in cybersecurity by making sure that regardless of a student’s focus — be it software development of secure codes, cybersecurity program and policy making, or networking security — they have a broad understanding of “how things work in the real world. Say you might be focused on cybersecurity technology, for example, you must also understand the management and policy implications and also the digital forensic implications as well. We don’t put the students in stovepipes of their area of focus.”
She said that typically when an incident occurs, one expert doesn’t just hand it off to digital management or to a policy expert, but all managers, including human resources, legal and more, get together to work with the technologist to solve the problem.