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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Tech security training pushed: Education in technical fields can help Oklahoma's economy, a TU professor says.

Oklahoma, U.S.A : Efforts to train students for careers in cyber security are helping Oklahoma position itself to build a high-tech economy, a University of Tulsa computer science professor said Friday.
Sujeet Shenoi, a nationally recognized expert in cyber security and digital forensics, said a high-tech economy can be developed more quickly than other economies, and that it relies on intellectual capital instead of financial investment.

Shenoi said corporations are beginning to take notice of the Cyber Security Education Consortium (CSEC) in Oklahoma, which is training students in the discipline of information security.

Although some of the graduates are leaving for jobs in other states, Shenoi said the program shows high-tech companies that Oklahoma -- and the surrounding region -- is serious about providing skilled, trained employees.

"If we want to set our state for the future, we need to focus on high tech. If we leverage our human capital, I think we can do something," Shenoi said during a Leadership Tulsa luncheon at TU.

In 2004, Oklahoma obtained a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop programs for cyber security research and education. The money went to CSEC, which includes a consortium of Oklahoma's major community colleges, the state's CareerTech centers and TU.

The schools have worked to develop a curriculum, train instructors and build academic programs. The number of participating colleges and tech centers is expected to grow through 2008.

During the current academic year, CSEC has trained 629 students, and 1,265 students have been trained in the past two years.

Information security will become increasingly important because the country's information infrastructure is vulnerable, Shenoi said.

The likely targets of cyber attacks include dams, utilities, chemical and manufacturing plants, refineries, banks and other financial institutions, power grids, state and local government, and information systems for the Federal Aviation Administration and the military.

In 2003, the FBI and Computer Security Institute estimated the number of cyber attacks in the United States at 32,000, compared with 7,000 or fewer in other countries.

Shenoi said the information technology industry needs one in 10 employees trained in cyber security, but the ratio is only one in 20 to one in 300.

The federal government has a deficiency of 100,000 cyber security professionals, and there's a massive shortage of trained people in state and local government.

The plan, Shenoi said, is for Oklahoma's CSEC to train public and private sector personnel, create a steady stream of graduates and attract or create security-related businesses in the state.

"Before long, Congress is going to realize that we cannot outsource and offshore these kinds of jobs, so we want to position our state and our region as the place to do this stuff," said Shenoi, who performs investigations on projects supported by the National Science Foundation, FBI, IRS, National Security Agency and the departments of Defense and Homeland Security.

"The major companies are seeing what's happening," he said. "We could move businesses here. . . .

"If we train enough people and keep knocking on doors, eventually some doors will open."

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