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Graduate Cybersecurity Program Offered

USC School of Engineering Offers Nation’s Newest MS Program in Computer Security

April 25, 2003 —

April 23, 2003/ For immediate release

”We are working proactively to respond to a growing threat,” says Dean C. L. Max Nikias

The University of Southern California School of Engineering announced today the creation of an M.S. program in computer science with a specialization in security, one of the nation’s first. The 18-month curriculum, including numerous courses offered for the first time, will enroll its first students in fall, 2003, according to the school’s dean, C. L. Max Nikias.

“We perceive an environment in which computer systems and communications are under imminent threat not merely from malicious teenage vandals and would-be thieves, but from terror groups and even nations with resources and know-how to do serious damage,” said Nikias in making the announcement.

“In the 21st century root disruption of the nation’s information technology and electronic communications net would not be merely an inconvenience, as it would have been in the past, but a life-threatening national emergency,” Nikias continued. “We are working proactively to respond to this growing threat by producing specialists to deal with it.”

The cybersecurity program is supported by the deep resources in computer expertise of the school, ranked eighth among graduate engineering programs by the US News & World Report. “Our engineering school includes the Information Sciences Institute (ISI), which by itself has more than 150 researchers with advanced degrees at work on all aspects of cybernetics and communications, as well as two departments of electrical engineering and a department of computer science.” Nikias said.

Nikias pointed to the school’s establishment last year of a Center for Computer and Communications and Security (CCCS). “Our new M.S. program is a natural continuation of this focus.”

Associate Professor of Computer Science Leana Golubchik said that the new program, like many others in the school, would be available through the school’s Distance Education Network, one of the largest of its kind in engineering higher education. Hundreds of students across the country, including some in the armed forces, are pursuing advanced degrees through DEN while working for corporations and other technology-oriented organizations that pay their tuition.

“Thanks to DEN, the security tools we will be teaching will be going to work immediately where they are needed most,” Golubchik said. She added that in addition to pressing national security concerns, the new specialization would speak to expanding needs in industry and commerce for trained computer security personnel.

Recent White House studies have identified a “crisis” in availability of trained security personnel. Most recently, a Feb. 15, 2003 report, The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace said “the Nation must focus resources on training a talented and innovative pool of citizens that can specialize in securing the infrastructure. While the need for this pool has grown quickly…the investment in training has not kept pace.”

“Nationwide,” warned the January 2000 National Plan for Information Systems Protection ”evidence suggests a growing danger of a shortage of skilled information technology (IT) personnel. ... Within the Federal Government, the lack of skilled information systems security personnel amounts to a crisis. This shortfall of workers reflects a scarcity of university graduate and undergraduate information security programs.”

The CCCS is directed by ISI’s B. Clifford Neuman, one of the inventors of the widely used Kerberos authentication system, which enables computer networks to verify the identity of users. Others who will be immediately involved in teaching core courses include Golubchik and three other computer science department faculty: Professor Ming-Deh Huang, Associate Professor Ramesh Govindan, and Assistant Professor Christos Papadopoulos.

The new M.S. concentration in Computer Security is one of six new MS. Programs that will be offered by the USC School of Engineering for the first time in fall, 2003.

Contact: Bob Calverley (213) 740-4750