Chair’s Message | A Statewide Initiative in Cybersecurity and Privacy Education

March 19, 2021

Dear Cybersecurity and Privacy community,

On Wednesday, education representatives from around the state convened virtually in the first workshop held by the Georgia Cybersecurity and Privacy Roadmap Taskforce. Condensing the 90-minute session into a few themes can’t fully capture all the topics presented, but if I had to characterize the meeting, I would say that 1- the state of cybersecurity education in Georgia is maturing rapidly and 2- there are several educational frameworks that position us well for the future. That’s not to say there aren’t challenges ahead. As chair of the taskforce, I’ve asked the members to think holistically about how the state can train more cybersecurity and privacy professionals at scale and pinpoint timeframes to enact these recommendations. 

I won’t bury the headline here. The GCRT is working to create a playbook for the entire Georgia education ecosystem to be used as a strategic guide for cybersecurity education. This guide will help build Georgia’s capacity to certify teachers, support faculty in higher education to serve more students, and scale delivery of education and training programs, all of which will lead to more students who are equipped to enter the cybersecurity and privacy workforce. The economic driver here is clear: there’s a workforce gap (you can monitor it for yourself) that we must address in order to secure our national infrastructure and protect how we do business across networks. This is an imperative for the state, and part of the solution must include a comprehensive education and training plan.

Some of the issues being raised in cybersecurity education remind me of those in computer science education – how do we address scale, access, instructional delivery methods, resources for instructors and students, etc.?

Georgia Tech not too long ago answered some of these questions in a big way when it took its master’s degree in computer science online and disrupted the market – it was the first online graduate CS degree from a top public research university that was equal to its residential program in all but cost. It’s been hugely successful; OMSCS currently enrolls 10,000+ students and costs less than $9K.

I mention this because Wednesday’s discussion surfaced some ideas that capture this spirit of thinking big and doing education in ways that are perhaps not common but are necessary and have huge potential payoffs. Some of this discussion revolved around how to solve creating more standardized delivery methods for instruction and finding and training qualified instructors across the education spectrum.

It’s an interesting parallel for me and perhaps a good bit of synergy to be the chair of the new school at Georgia Tech and this taskforce. Both enterprises require new ways of thinking and models that can support growing demand in this space. Just as I have encouraged the community to make their voice heard during the formation of the new school, please feel free to reach out to taskforce members as we continue this statewide initiative. There will be two more workshops this year that you can also take part in.

A recent example of Georgia’s strengths in cybersecurity is the National Security Administration Codebreaker Challenge, where eight colleges and universities in the state placed in the top 100 teams across the country in 2020. Georgia Tech was second, among 452 qualifying institutions, and has been in the top three ever since the competition started in 2015. Taesoo Kim, associate professor in computer science, and participating students (many from CS 6265) will be recognized by the NSA at the end of the month. This competition provides students with a hands-on opportunity to develop their skills in reverse-engineering and low-level code analysis through realistic problem-solving. Our school developed an interactive visual breakdown of top-performing teams here.

For those students new to Georgia Tech this semester, welcome and good luck. A special welcome to the 223 online students starting their journey in the OMS Cyber program. You’re invited to my weekly virtual open office hour, Fridays at 1 pm ET. I look forward to seeing some new faces and hearing about you and your interests.

Thanks for reading.


Richard DeMillo 
Charlotte B. and Roger C. Warren Chair of Computing 
Chair, School of Cybersecurity and Privacy   

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