Cybersecurity awareness gets a NICE start

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

When President Obama announced his intention to “initiate a national awareness and education campaign to promote cybersecurity” all he had to do was look north to Gaithersburg.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology was already familiar with the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative of President Bush, focusing on cybersecurity training and awareness in the federal government.

NIST’s Dr. Ernest McDuffie now runs the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE).


McDuffie told Federal News Radio expanding the program to all 50 states from kindergarten to graduate school, through the public and private sectors to teach “what it means to be safe in cyberspace” from the internet to ATMs, absolutely cannot be done by NIST alone.

The main idea behind an interagency effort is the fact that it’s too big of an issue for any one agency to deal with by itself. In fact, it’s too big for the federal government to deal with by itself. We need to partner with the private sector, with academia, so that we can touch everybody in a positive way.

To get the word out, NICE is planning a “wide ranging campaign,” said McDuffie, “where we’ll actually touch on things in Hollywood, PSAs and the like, where we’re going to try to get bumper stickers and have catch phrases where people really can identify with what it means to be safe in cybersecurity.”

The tricky part, or “largest challenge” as McDuffie put it, will be keeping up with the changes in cybersecurity even as they get rolling. He said that half his time as a computer scientist was spent reading technical journals just trying to stay current.

So the same thing happens now for cybersecurity education. As we’re standing up these programs and outreach and doing curriculum development, we’re very cognizant of the fact that everything we’re doing today is changing and evolving the next day, the next week, the next month. So we have to go back and make sure we have real strong ties to the research community and we’re able to bring those changes and updates to our program as well.

One of the first events on the NICE timeline is a workshop next month where McDuffie said they would be inviting the public, and partners from industry and academia.