NJIT Certified as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education

From left: NJIT Provost Fadi Deek, computer science professor Reza Curtmola, College of Computing Sciences dean Marek Rusinkiewicz and professor and computer science department chair James Geller display a certificate issued by the National Security Agency and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, designating NJIT a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.

The National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have designated NJIT as a National Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) in Cyber Defense Education through the 2020 academic year.

NSA and DHS jointly sponsor CAE with the goal to reduce vulnerability in the national information infrastructure by promoting higher education and research, and producing a growing pipeline of professionals with information assurance expertise in various disciplines.

The commendation comes at a critical time, as information security threats continue to dominate headlines, classified email systems are routinely compromised and a recent hack at the Office of Personnel Management exposed the sensitive data of over 22 million people. Still, thousands of cybersecurity jobs go unfilled each year, making it the most in demand profession in the tech sector with a potential starting salary upwards of $100,000 per year.

“There is a dire need in this area and a critical shortage of professionals with cybersecurity skills in the United States,” says Reza Curtmola, an associate professor of computer science at NJIT, who spearheaded the certification effort and conducts research in applied cryptography and security of cloud computing and wireless networks.

"This designation helps reaffirm NJIT's commitment to interdisciplinary education and research,” says NJIT Provost Fadi Deek. “It will assure the protection of our national information infrastructure by training more scientists and technologists, who can contribute to reducing vulnerabilities in our vast networks and securing our systems.”

Curtmola, with the help of Cristian Borcea, associate professor and chair of the computer science department, used the College of Computing Science’s Master of Science in Cyber Security and Privacy program—and over 50 courses across multiple departments—to satisfy the certification requirements.

“We had to show that Information Assurance and Cyber Defense (IA/CD) is a multidisciplinary program at NJIT and encouraged throughout the institution,” explains Curtmola. “We were able to demonstrate that students actually work on IA/CD projects as part of their coursework, that the faculty are engaged in teaching such courses and doing research in this area and that NJIT has the ability to collaborate with high schools, community colleges and other universities.”

Last semester, further cementing NJIT’s status as a pioneer in the education and advancement of proactive cyber defense, Curtmola and several of his colleagues established the New Jersey Center for Cybersecurity, an NJIT-based facility focused on cybersecurity research and transformative solutions.

“With our recent CAE designation, the talented faculty we’ve recently hired, the large grants we’ve got coming in and the federally supported research efforts underway, NJIT is building a critical mass and increasing our visibility as a top university for future leaders in the field of cybersecurity.”

By Shydale James