USNA offers Cyberwarfare 101

Monday - 4/19/2010, 10:30am EDT

Andrew Phillips, Academic Dean and Provost, USNA

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

For the vast majority of plebes entering the US Naval Academy's Class of 2015 this summer, there has never been a world without Microsoft.

The Academy is about to test two new courses to develop effective cyber warriors of the future, both by defending and attacking computer systems.

Dean and Provost Andrew Phillips told Federal News Radio the Naval Academy has done well in educating midshipmen in the field of "information dominance, which includes the fields of cyberwarfare and cybersecurity, but where we haven't done as well is in providing all midshipmen, all of our graduates, with a foundation in those areas."

So now all mids, starting in freshman year, will be adding classes in cybersecurity and will have access to summer cyber cruises. The goal, said Phillips, is "to be able to provide some background for every midshipman regardless of their major."

Typical topics of coursework, said Phillips, would include wireless network technologies and security, password cracking, hacking hardware, techniques used in USB memory sticks or keystroke loggers.

On the non-technical side, topics might include "social engineering and convincing people to give up sensitive information that they might not otherwise do - sort of tricking them into revealing their passwords," said Phillips, and then on to more advanced topics like port scanning techniques and biometrics and digital forensics.

All topics, said Phillips, "one can teach at an elementary level or a fundamental level to any midshipman, regardless of what they actually intend to major in."

Information dominance is an exciting field for the young midshipmen, said Phillips. "It's a new generation of students that we're getting and some come in pretty savvy and others sort of discover this for the first time and then they decide it's something they want to pursue."

The Naval Academy also is starting a new club which will use hands-on activities and contests to increase cyberwarfare awareness for the entire student body.