Sign of the Times

Posted By lex, on March 9th, 2011

The Naval Academy is changing its core curriculum to include two courses on cyber security. These are the first major changes to the curriculum in ten years:

The first course will be required next spring for freshmen, or plebes, in the Class of 2015, Academic Dean Andrew Phillips told the school’s civilian oversight board during its meeting in Annapolis.

The second required course will start during the Class of 2015′s junior year.

The plebe course will focus on recognizing cyber risks and threats, Phillips said.

The mandatory junior course will be more technical, and emphasize computer network defenses.

Phillips said the classes will teach cyber defense, and some existing computer classes already teach midshipmen specializing in computer warfare how to launch an attack.

“The goal is for midshipmen to come away from the (new) course with an understanding of how cyber flaws are exploited,” Phillips said.

Cybersecurity and cyber warfare have become major concerns for the military and federal policy makers.

This is certainly a growing and important field of study, and I wouldn’t be opposed to a computer science degree that emphasized cyber security. I do question the logic of making these courses obligatory for all students.

Today, DoD military, civil servants and contractors are required to take annual information assurance computer-based training to avoid social networking schemes such as phishing, allow them to identify insider threats (always the most dangerous) and ensure against the compromise of our networks through benign neglect. It’s painful, but pretty effective at stopping the most obvious holes. But even two semester-long courses in cyber warfare will be at best an introductory level discussion – the real work of cyber is done by mathematical and computer science PhDs and wild-haired autodidacts.

Anyone with the wits, desire and resources can become a cyber warrior. For those lacking any of the three – probably the majority of midshipmen when it comes to “desire” – these courses will probably be a waste of time.

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Filed under Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Navy, USNA

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