Mason awarded $500,000 Cybersecurity Grant

Volgenau School of Engineering (photo courtesy wikipedia)
Volgenau School of Engineering (photo courtesy wikipedia)

This past summer, the National Science Foundation granted $500,000 to George Mason's School of Management and Volgenau School of Engineering. The grant was awarded to fund research on cyber security, with the hope that Mason's curriculum for cyber security leadership offered within the Management of Secure Information Systems program will become a national model.  According to the National Science Foundation’s website, there is a cyber security leadership gap in the U.S.

“Most people in cyber security don’t understand the business needs of management. That’s not enough anymore,” said Angelos Stavrou, associate director of the Center for Secure Information Systems and Principal Investigator of the new program. “If managers don’t understand how to manage the people who are technologically diverse, they struggle to earn the team’s respect.”

 The grant is awarded to the School of Management together with the School of Engineering to bridge this gap and combine cyber-security skills with skills in leadership, communication and organization. Much of the grant focuses on research for the exact skills required in the current job market. The project will bring members of the private sector together with government and academic cyber security experts into panels of discussion. These discussions, which begin in January 2014, will be a basis to develop new curriculum guidelines.

Says Stavrou, “We’re bringing in the business leaders to tell us what they think should be a part of the curriculum. We need them for the business perspective, and they need us because they want to hire the people who will come out of this program.”

The curriculum will focus on the skills needed by Chief Information Security Officers (CISO's). A CISO is responsible for information protection at a firm, usually leading a team in developing and maintaining technology to combat IT risks and leaks. The research funded by the NSF Grant is aimed to understanding the key skills needed by CISOs and making sure the curriculum in cyber security leadership provides the appropriate skills for students to enter this field.

Once a new curriculum is developed, a main goal is to increase accessibility for students, with some of the project funding directed to creating an online cyber security leadership master's program. Once an online program is developed, the idea is to partner with other universities so that they may offer the online program and reach students nationwide.

“There are a lot of positions who would like to get people like this, but there are not a lot out of these people out there,” Stavrou said.

Another important goal of the program is its sustainability. If the project succeeds in its goal and appropriately diagnosis the skills required for cyber security leaders in today's job market, the curriculum that emerges from George Mason may serve as a model for other universities looking to tailor their cyber-security programs. The project will also set up a permanent Cyber security Leadership Education Forum with a permanent panel in charge of keeping the curriculum updated as the field evolves.

The project will be completed in 2015.This information will be made available to faculty across the fields of cyber security management and information technology and engineering to begin working on the structure of the curriculum.

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