How Universities Can Help Support the National Cybersecurity Strategy

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The National Cybersecurity Strategy provides a comprehensive approach to increasing the resilience of users and cyber systems, and securing the digital future of the United States. Cybersecurity doesn’t exist in a vacuum, so one tenet of this strategy focuses heavily on organizations taking larger ownership of cyber-related issues. While the strategy is the White House’s effort to reimagine cyber space and create a safe and secure digital ecosystem, universities have a key role to play in advancing this by using it to teach the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

The strategy focuses on an increase in public transparency across industries by fostering open communication about cybersecurity practices; incident reporting; vulnerability disclosure; clear communication by organizations on how companies collect, handle, store, and share data; and accountability and oversight around all cyber related practices. New cyber threats and vulnerabilities evolve at a rapid pace, requiring constant information sharing and transparency between trusted partners.

The Power of Partnerships

The National Cybersecurity Strategy also highlights the power of public-private partnerships and illustrates the key role universities can play in improving national security efforts. Open and collaborative efforts between government and private industry benefit everyone involved and lead to stronger, more robust, and more resilient cyber systems. Public-private partnerships enable collaborative research and knowledge sharing, which help drive innovation and implementation. Examples of highly successful partnerships between universities and the federal government that benefit the National Cybersecurity Strategy include the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, the National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAEs), as well as the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program.   

These partnerships illustrate the larger role universities and colleges can play in the implementation and success of the National Cybersecurity Strategy. With research capabilities and relevant subject matter expertise, these institutions are well positioned to provide future cyber workers with a multidisciplinary approach to cybersecurity.

Preparing future cybersecurity professionals for the workforce starts with properly training individuals in the underlying principles of the strategy and with well-thought-out cyber security curricula. In an academic setting, curricula can be infused with the highlighted principles of cyber defense, protecting critical infrastructure, understanding and securing global supply chain risks, strengthening our cyber workforce, and many others. In addition to understanding the importance of the National Cybersecurity Standard, students should be exposed to the ethical and legal aspects of cyber.

Universities and colleges can also implement hands-on cybersecurity training and simulation to help students develop real-world cybersecurity experience. The use of cyber ranges and labs allows students to gain practical, relevant experience in a safe environment. Closely related to the use of hands-on pedagogy, encouraging student participation in cyber competitions such as “capture the flag” events can help students to develop tangible skills including teamwork, problem solving, and policy implementation. Communication is key, including the ability to read requirements, securely implement business practices, and then generate novel approaches to problems.

Public-private efforts are also central to the integration and use of internships, mentoring, and apprenticeships. These experiences help students better understand theoretical concepts and allow them to more quickly contribute to industry specific security requirements. 

Universities are also uniquely positioned to offer professional development to non-traditional students. The promotion of lifelong learning is key to ensuring the current workforce stays up to date with the latest practices and standards. Professional development opportunities including workshops, seminars, and certificates can be made easily accessible to a wide variety of professionals and be done fully remotely.

Increased cybersecurity benefits everyone, and we as citizens all have a stake and a shared sense of responsibility in this endeavor. Through partnerships with private industry and the federal government, universities and colleges can help prepare both the current workforce and the next generation of cybersecurity professionals while simultaneously contributing to the development of technology and products that support the National Cybersecurity Strategy

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