NYIT cybersecurity center gets fed cred

Nada AnidNada Anid: The line starts here.

The New York Institute of Technology, which boasts campuses in New York City and Old Westbury and is developing a new Cyber Defense Research Facility in Bethpage, has been designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

The designation, which extends through the 2021 academic year, “will contribute to Long Island’s innovation landscape and further strengthen Long Island’s leadership in the area of cybersecurity,” Nada Anid, dean of NYIT’s School of Engineering and Computing Sciences, told Innovate LI.

It also enables NYIT faculty and students to access projects classified eyes-only by the federal government – though staffers and learners will be required to receive top-secret clearance as necessary, Anid noted.

“There are two types of cyber-defenses work for the government: classified and unclassified,” Anid said. “We will be able to do more of those (classified projects), but of course only individuals with the proper clearance can perform classified work.”

The National Center of Academic Excellence program, which is jointly sponsored by Homeland Security and the NSA, designates schools based on their specific degree programs and “close alignment to specific cybersecurity-related knowledge units,” according to NYIT, the first university on Long Island to be added to the federal Cyber Defense rolls and the eighth in New York State.

The security agencies chose NYIT because its cybersecurity curriculum, which has been evolving for more than a decade, prepares graduates to protect national information systems, commercial networks and critical public and private information infrastructure, noted NYIT President Edward Guiliano.

“Universities play a vital role in the campaign to stop cyber-crime by educating the next wave of professionals,” Guiliano said in a statement, citing NYIT’s “cutting-edge curricula” and ability to “contribute to solutions about pressing issues facing our world.”

In a letter announcing the designation, NSA National CAE Program Manager Karen Leauschner noted the university’s “ability to meet the increasing demand of the program criteria.”

“The President’s National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace addresses the critical shortage of professionals with these skills,” Leauschner wrote, and this “highlights the importance of higher education as a solution to defending America’s cyberspace.”

To that end, Anid stressed that the CAE designation “is not just a title.”

“It takes a strong curriculum, topnotch faculty experts in information assurance and cybersecurity, state-of-the-art facilities and the brightest students,” the dean noted. “It also requires partnerships with industry and government and the engagement of angels and VCs interested in investing in security research and development and products.”

That puts NYIT dead center of a burgeoning industry, and as the only Long Island CAE cybersecurity designee, emboldens the mission of the school’s Cyber Defense Research Facility in Bethpage.

In July 2015, Nassau County selected NYIT to run a cybersecurity research center and develop new data-protection technologies.  Also last year, the Start-Up NY regional economic-development program announced a $400,000 award to create a tax-free zone for cybersecurity-focused businesses around the facility, which at the time was planned for Port Washington.

The Nassau County Industrial Development Agency has since helped the university secure the Bethpage space, where development is underway.

The CAE designation “is an important step forward” for the Cyber Defense Research Facility, according to Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.

“Nassau County residents put a man on the moon (and) built our national defense assets,” Mangano said. “This rich history will live on through NYIT’s cyber defense education and future research facility.”

Anid agreed the forthcoming Cyber Defense Research Facility is greatly strengthened by the CAE designation, which exposes NYIT to advanced cyber projects and the required certifications to work on them – a major recruiting advantage for the school.

“Our degrees are aligned with NSA’s cyber certifications and our own students or any business professional can earn those credentials at NYIT,” Anid said. “Students will also be eligible for government scholarships to study NYIT’s cyber curriculum.

“This prestigious designation is further evidence of our focus on and leadership in cybersecurity” Anid added. “It will help NYIT faculty vie for an even greater number of research grants and help NYIT students to secure government and private sector scholarships and careers in cyber defense.”