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UMFK PROFESSOR AND SYSTEM COLLEAGUES KICK-OFF NATIONAL CYBERSECURITY AWARENESS MONTH

October 9, 2009

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Dr. Raymond Albert, professor of Computer Science at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, along with his colleagues George Markowsky (University of Maine), Joseph Szakas (University of Maine at Augusta), and JoAnne Wallingford (University of Maine at Presque Isle) are kicking-off the celebration of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month with the support of a $30,000 grant from the University of Maine System (UMS) Strategic Investment Fund.   

The grant supports, among other things, the purchase of computing equipment for high school teams who will be preparing for, and participating in, the first-ever statewide cyber defense competition for high school students to be held in March 2010.  A key element of the project is raising high school students’ awareness and interest in the UMS’ science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs through cyber defense competitions. 

The project is modeled on successful efforts being orchestrated in other states and across the nation.  The Iowa State University IT-Olympics project and the CyberPatriot II program sponsored by the Air Force Association and Civil Air Patrol are two examples.   

According to Dr. Albert, “Our project is intended to build upon the successful foundation established by these programs to establish Maine in the Information Security education arena and simultaneously stimulate high school students’ awareness and interest in UMS STEM programs.”    

The project also exemplifies the good work identified in recent legislative efforts by Senator Susan Collins and Senator Olympia Snowe, among others, who co-sponsored the recently-passed Senate Resolution 285, which supports the goals and ideals of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.    

Specific outcomes of the project include, in addition to raising awareness and interest of high school students in UMS STEM programs, selecting at least 10 high schools to participate during the initial (pilot) year; engaging high school students and project undergraduates in service-learning activities that support personal education growth, while simultaneously providing a valuable community service; increasing the number of partnering university computer science and related program undergraduates who prepare for and compete in the New England Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition; and pursuing at least one follow-on grant award to ensure that every high school in Maine that wants to participate, will be able to receive the equipment necessary to participate. 

The project also will avail to participating students some resources that are unique to the UMFK Computer Applications - Information Security program, such as the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Group laboratory where students engage in computer forensics exercises. 

According to Dr. Albert, “The most important aspect of the project will be engaging high school students in enjoyable and spirited events and activities that will awaken and energize their aspirations to pursue STEM programs within UMS, while simultaneously celebrating and supporting the cause for increased Cybersecurity awareness.  I can think of few better ways to kick off National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.”

For further information about the Maine Cyber Defense Competition (MECDC) for high school students, please contact Dr. Raymond Albert at UMFK.  He may be reached at (207) 834-7696, or at mecdcdirector@gmail.com  ###