The Natural State might want to consider changing its nickname to the Cyber State. In fact, all states could take a page from them when it comes to understanding information technology and the culture of computers.
In 2016, the National Guard made its intentions to activate 13 new cyber units known. Those units are expected to be spread out over 23 states by the fourth quarter of 2019. The Cyber Ops Squadron of the 189th Airlift Wing, stationed at the Little Rock Air Force base is one such unit and they're blazing a trail in cyber strategy.
The Cyber Ops Squadron at Little Rock is a training ground for officers to cultivate offensive and defensive cyber skills via their Cyber Skills Validation Course, a groundbreaking 49-day program for officers to prove and/or brush up on computer skills.
Those who complete the course are awarded a cyber operator designation, enabling them to explore career opportunities in the field of cybersecurity.
Both active duty and reserve forces of the Air National Guard as well as members of the Air Force in all 50 states can take the Cyber Skills Validation Course, effectively closing the gap in cyber. As Air Force National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Scott Rice has said, the military's need for cyber troops is "insatiable."
This is good news for officers who are used to struggling to find work during or after a career in the National Guard as they can qualify for jobs in the private sector during their downtime. And, perhaps more interestingly, it also works the other way around. Rice has said that he is eager to pluck what he calls "cyber warriors" out of existing positions at tech companies and put them into the military workforce.
These cyber warriors are the future of this country, the men and women who will find the solutions to baffling problems in the cyber realm. And the military aren't the only ones giving them the skills they need to meet the demands of tomorrow.
Armed with a half-million dollar grant from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, the University of Central Arkansas is developing a cyber range to train their students in all areas of cyber security. Governor Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., has called this one of a kind range a "cutting edge tool," vowing to throw his support behind shifting the landscape around computer science and tech education.
Gov. Hutchinson accomplished this by championing the project not just with words but with money. By helping to pay for the fully-functional dedicated cyber range, Hutchinson has brought the university one step closer to bringing this advanced technology to their campuses.
Thanks to an arrangement between the university and the Arkansas Educational Television Network, the range will make an education in cyber security available to college and high school students alike. Utilizing online media tools, students will learn coding, computer programming and other curricula in addition to cybersecurity.
Viruses will be able to be injected onto the range without exposing the Internet to anything malicious. In this way, students will be able to study the virus in question to better assess what needs to be done to eradicate it.
Students will learn about the state of the Internet, the importance of encryption, the value of using virtual private networks and the ways to identify and combat cyberattacks. Many of their faculty members already rely on virtual private networks to access their on-campus remote desktops when working from home.
Slowly but surely, other states are recognizing the need for such innovation. Regent University is one example; the Virginia school unveiled its own state of the art cyber range in October of 2017. The stand-alone cybersecurity training facility is a multi-million dollar unit that not only serves the students but, also, industry officials in healthcare, finance, military and more.
The Regent Cyber Range is said to offer simulations that are as "close to the real attack as you can get," making it wildly effective at demonstrating to students just what they could be looking at once they've graduated and entered the field.
The University of Central Arkansas' Cybersecurity Range is expected to operate in a similar manner, pairing simulations with in-house explanations of malicious software and other threat trends facing Americans in the years to come.
Their Assistant Professor of Cybersecurity will be teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses this year. The university plans to offer an interdisciplinary bachelor's degree in cybersecurity this fall. The program has been endorsed by the College of Liberal Arts, UCA College of Business and the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.
The state of Arkansas has long acknowledged how vital cybersecurity is to the integrity of the public and private sectors, and are committed to providing pupils with the tools they need to prepare for careers in the current and emerging digital space.
Cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing industries and, as of this writing, there are 644 computer security jobs available in Arkansas on Indeed.com alone. Positions include applications developer, senior network and security administrator and data assurance researcher. Summer internship programs are also up for grabs at this time.
Like I said, Arkansas takes cybersecurity seriously; the state has an entire division dedicated to understanding cyber-related trends and disseminating software solutions to their citizens.
The Arkansas Cybersecurity Office works to establish security standards and policies for information technology in state government and has passed legislation pertaining to everything from identity theft and cyberbullying to anti-spyware and disclosure of personal information to consumers.
They provide residents with training in how to protect against "spear phishing." For more information about their contracts and services, readers can visit this page.
Sam Bocetta is a defense contractor for the U.S. Navy, a defense analyst, and a freelance journalist. He specializes in finding radical — and often heretica l— solutions to "impossible" ballistics problems. Through Lakeview Capital, he also cultivates funding for projects — usually naval, defense, and UAV startups. He writes about naval engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, marine ops, program management, defense contracting, export control, international commerce, patents, InfoSec, cryptography, cyberwarfare, and cyberdefense. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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