Feds Boost Cybersecurity Efforts

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WASHINGTON -- The Department of Homeland Security launched two years ago with just six science and technology employees. Today, taking aim at cyberspace threats as well as physical ones, the organization has boosted its tech sector to more than 200 employees and is pairing with universities to groom more.

With more than 1 billion security-related transactions taking place online each year, the growth of technology that protects Americans is essential, Charles McQueary, DHS undersecretary of science and technology, told biometric enthusiasts at the CardTech SecurTech conference here this week.

The DHS 2005 budget includes a 14 percent increase for science and technology, he added. Additional funding for technology and cybersecurity has been a recurring request.

Grooming Cybersecurity Experts

Homeland Security recently announced a partnership with the National Science Foundation to give grants to university students studying cybersecurity. The new program, Scholarships for Service, is intended to encourage more professionals in the field.

"The SFS Scholarship Track funds colleges and universities to award two-year scholarships in the information assurance and computer security fields," Homeland Security officials said in a statement. "Upon graduation, the scholarship recipients are required to work for a federal agency for two years to fulfill their Federal Cyber Service commitments."

McQueary says 90 percent of the department's budget funds current needs, and the remaining 10 percent funds forward-looking threats. The scholarships--an example of planning for the future--are intended to ensure the department keeps growing a base of talent as long as cyberterrorism persists as a serious threat to the United States.

Another ongoing DHS push is partnerships with private industry to promote cybersecurity research and practices.

Research in Progress

"The Department of Homeland Security's support for the successful Scholarship for Service program will be instrumental in increasing the number of experts dedicated to maintaining nationwide computer security," says Dr. Ernest McDuffie, lead program director for SFS at the National Science Foundation. "The Scholarship for Service program provides government agencies with the cybersecurity expertise of the scholarship recipients that are fulfilling their two-year commitments."

McQueary announced two new grant recipients: Texas A&M University and the University of Minnesota. They will work with the department to develop curricula that promotes protective scientific measures. The two universities are expected to concentrate their efforts on agricultural threats.

The University of Southern California is a current grantee with more than 100 fellows who will participate in government internships this summer.

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