Northeast State awarded a $1.6 million Dept. of Labor cybersecurity grant

Published 10:38 am Saturday, October 8, 2022

The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded Northeast State a $1.6 million Strengthening College Training grant to promote student success in under-represented student populations and enhance cybersecurity education in Computer Information Technology (CIT) programs.
Northeast State Community College was one of only 13 colleges and universities to receive funding from the department’s Employment and Training Administration.
In all, $45 million in funding was awarded to help institutions address equity gaps, meet job-market skill requirements, and focus on specific career training.
“The grant will provide an excellent computer science opportunity for first-generation college students and students and students of color,” said Dr. Donna Farrell, dean of the College’s Technologies Division. “The grant also allows the College to strengthen its current computer science programs and offer the region and state a unique facility for combatting cyber-crime.”
As envisioned, the project will develop coaching and peer mentor models to aid student success and retention, increase outreach and marketing efforts to recruit students of color, and create a cyber range.
A cyber range allows for the realistic simulation of attacks on computer systems while teaching defenders how to identify and defeat potential threats. The range employs attacks on networks, servers, routers, switches, firewalls, software, and other infrastructure in a secure, controlled environment that causes no damage.
Examples of cyber-attacks include malware, ransomware, and phishing, among others. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, $2.4 billion in losses were reported in 2021 due to compromised business emails. That same year, cryptocurrency scams cost victims $1.6 billion.
Farrell said students and industry partners would learn how to defend and attack, instilling a well-rounded understanding of the cyber-attack environment. She said the range would employ scenarios and exercises where the cyber-forces of good and evil — known as white hats and black hats — face-off, each vying for success.
The next steps for the project include hiring a director and other grant-funded staff, selecting an external evaluator, and assessing space requirements. In early 2023, the College will finalize equipment lists and purchase hardware and software for the cyber range.
The project will be housed in the Technical Education Complex on Northeast State’s Blountville campus. The grant’s timeline runs from Oct. 1, 2022, to Sept. 20, 2026.

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