US intelligence looks to academia for future cyber-spies

Officials from the National Security Agency have developed an entire curriculum of college-level courses specifically designed to develop the skills for cyberintelligence and law enforcement operations. 

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Little is known on the specifics of the courses, except they will be offered during the summer semester to students who will be required to obtain a security clearance to attend, according to reports by Reuters.  

Roughly 20 schools applied to NSA to gain the rights to open a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations. Four were approved. 

The schools named were Dakota State University, Naval Postgraduate School, Northeastern University and the University of Tulsa.

Those who attend and successfully complete the courses will likely have a good chance at joining NSA. 

Headquartered at Ft. Meade, Md., the agency's primary mission is to protect American cyber-networks from infiltration and attack and to eavesdrop on electronic communications of U.S. adversaries. 

The centers were created after NSA officials recognized a severe lack of necessary technology skills among the agency's recruiting pool, Capt. Jill Newton, head of  NSA's cyber-training and education programs, told Reuters. 

But as the threat of cyberattacks against U.S. military and civilian networks rises, intel agencies like NSA and the Pentagon are pushing hard to make sure the United States is prepared. 

For their part, DOD officials are continuing work on a new cyber-warfare strategy inside the Pentagon. 

The new "standing rules of engagement" will look to expand existing Pentagon protocols regarding cyberattacks beyond military networks, Gen. Keith Alexander, head of Cyber Command, told Congress in March. 

The goal of the new strategy will be to expand DOD's authority in the online realm to give the White House more options on how to respond to a large-scale cyberattack, the four-star general said at the time. 

To that end, the Pentagon has formalized a pilot program that allows the department to monitor the networks of defense industry firms who work closely with DOD. 

Initiated last year, the pilot program allows U.S. military officials to scan the networks of 17 private defense firms to see if the data on those networks had been compromised. 

With the program now formally adopted by DOD, department officials will look expand the size and scope of the program to other defense industry firms.