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Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
America lures student hackers

The United States government is setting up a scholarship scheme to lure students to work as computer security professionals.

The idea is, in part, in response to a 1997 presidential commission set up to address computer and information system infrastructure protection issues.

But with the States having suffered a wave of attacks from Chinese "crackers" in recent weeks - one of which brought down the White House website for two hours and 15 minutes - cyberthreats remain a sensitive issue.

Now it is hoped $8.6m of scholarship money, under the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Scholarship for Service scheme, will help train a new generation of web security professionals.

Up to 200 students from select universities will be given two years' funding, agreeing, in return, to work for the federal government for two years after they graduate.

Centres of excellence

The chosen centres - Carnegie Mellon, Iowa State and Purdue Universities, the Universities of Idaho and Tulsa, and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, California - have been named centres of excellence by the National Security Agency.


The technical growth has been so fast that security hasn't really caught up with it

NSF spokesman
The centres have each been given between $2.8m and $1.4m to finance the initiative and will take 30 to 40 students in the first year of the scheme.

Director of the NSF, Rita Colwell, said: "These scholarships will encourage young people to enter the field of information security and assurance, and give them an opportunity to put their talents to work at the front lines of government cyber security efforts".

NSF spokesman, Bill Noxon, said the issue of computer security was something which needed to be addressed.

"The technical growth has been so fast that security hasn't really caught up with it," he said.

'Cream of the crop'

Marquis Grove, who runs the security news portal, told Wired News the idea was a positive step and would allow the government to get its hands on the "cream of the crop".


Putting a couple dozen security professionals on the government payroll is a drop in the bucket

John Pike
"This is a good way of hooking some very talented people who might otherwise not be able to afford it," he said.

But the director of globalsecurity.org, John Pike, said the money set aside was not enough.

"That doesn't strike me as being a lot of money - putting a couple dozen security professionals on the government payroll is a drop in the bucket," Mr Pike said.

He said the problem was not so much a paucity of information systems professionals, as a need to set security standards on commercial vendors that protect trade secrets, intellectual property and software source code.

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See also:

05 May 01 | Americas
White House website attacked
01 May 01 | Media reports
BBC website hacked
03 Jan 01 | South Asia
Teen hackers turn cyber cops
11 Feb 01 | Middle East
Dubai 'hacker' due in court
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