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COLUMBUS, Ga. – As government and industry increasingly prioritize cyber security, Columbus State University and its Turner College of Business and Computer Science has been recognized as a national standard bearer in both teaching and applying the concept.
The citation is by way of the National Security Administration designating CSU as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education.
According to the NSA, Columbus State ensures “the very finest preparation of professionals entrusted with securing our critical information.”
A formal announcement and presentation was part of the 15th Annual Conference of the Colloquium for Information Systems Security Education June 14 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Fairborn, Ohio.
The designation started taking shape in 2005 when the NSA accredited the curriculum for the TSYS School of Computer Science’s applied computer science master’s degree as meeting the highest standards in information assurance – one of the tracks of the degree program since 2002.
Information assurance refers to managing risks related to the use, processing, storage, and transmission of information or data and the systems and processes used for those purposes. Threats range from simple viruses to sophisticated hacking of defense systems.
Building on a 2007 reaccrediting of CSU’s curriculum, the new designation “applies to the entire university and reflects CSU’s commitment to teaching and effectively exercising information assurance,” said Ed Bosworth, associate professor of computer science and director CSU’s Center for Information Assurance Education.
Key criteria complementing the curriculum include CSU’s University Information and Technology Services’ commitment to, and application of, information assurance, community outreach via faculty-led workshops and an increase of faculty research. “We’ve added a pair of very active researchers in this field – Jianhua Yang and Radhouane Chouchane,” Bosworth said. “This has significantly strengthened the program.”
The new faculty complement professor Lydia Ray, who provides expertise in computer forensics.”
With the designation, effective through 2016, CSU joins about 125 higher education institutions nationwide, including just four in Georgia: Clark Atlanta, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State and Southern Polytechnic.
In addition to the prestige from joining a small group of nationally vital centers, CSU further benefits from the designation by its students becoming eligible for scholarships through the Department of Defense and Federal Cyber Service, while CSU faculty and staff are eligible for NSA and Department of Defense grants and contracts.
With an expanded capacity for scholarly activity focused on information security, CSU has positioned itself as a fortress in “a new phase of warfare, exemplified by the recent ‘Stuxnet’ virus,” Bosworth said.
Believed to have recently disabled Iran’s nuclear power system, Stuxnet represents a new level of sophistication in computer viruses in its apparent threat to large industrial control systems, such as the U.S. electric grid, Bosworth said.
The development compounds the threat of identity threat and computer fraud to both networks and information on personal computers.
More than 30 students have received information assurance certification through CSU, including such notables as John Branchcomb, an FBI agent, and George Trawick, who landed an information assurance-related position with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington and is pursuing a Ph.D. in the field.
Additionally, hundreds of graduate students have taken one or more graduate courses in information assurance. Those courses include Information Systems Assurance, Network Security, Advanced System Security, Computer Forensics, Network Risk Assessment, and Software Testing and Quality Assurance.
The courses were developed in cooperation with local industries and trade groups, including Chattahoochee Valley Infragard — a cooperative security-information sharing and analysis effort involving the FBI, other government organizations and local businesses.