The National Security Agency recently certified more than a dozen unique graduate and undergraduate courses in computer network security, data encryption, steganography and digital watermarking at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).
These computer skills, often classified under the heading of Information Assurance (IA), allow users to hide messages. Following the destruction of the World Trade Center, rumors abounded that terrorists had embedded messages in the graphics and texts of sports, pornographic and other web sites. Federal government officials and others have highlighted IA as a national priority for defense. The field focuses on technology to protect the nation's information technology (IT) infrastructure. The IT infrastructure, which includes the Internet, is widely used by the public and computer network systems in government agencies, corporations, colleges and universities.
"The reason for increasing these courses at NJIT is that the United States currently does not have enough experts in the field," said Ali Akansu, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering. “To correct the imbalance, the government has authorized NSA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to educate more people.
"This designation makes NJIT a pioneer," Akansu added. "We are the only university or college offering these courses in New Jersey with compliance to the NSA standards for information assurance (IA)." NSA also designated NJIT as a center of academic excellence in IA education. Only 50 universities in the U.S. have this distinction.
This is not the first time NJIT has been in a leadership position. The state’s third largest public research university has numbered among the leaders providing information about data hiding, since the early days of the Internet. Faculty members at NJIT, Akansu among them, built one of the industry's first video data hiding engines. In 1999, NJIT in conjunction with Princeton University, held one of the first symposiums on the topic.
Undergraduate or graduate students who are qualified, but not necessarily enrolled at NJIT, may take the classes in fall of 2003. NJIT professors in either the department of electrical and computer engineering at Newark College of Engineering or the College of Computing Sciences will teach them. Several of these professionals are also associated with the New Jersey Center for Wireless Networking and Internet Security at NJIT.
The Center, which opened in 2002, operates in collaboration with Princeton University. Researchers there develop future technologies to protect the Internet and computer network managements from cyber attacks. A $2.6 million grant from the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology launched the project.
Undergraduates, NJIT degree students and visiting students who are interested only in IA courses may study computer network security, data encryption, steganography and digital watermarking.
Two new, 12-credit, 4-course graduate certificates will also be available for graduate students through the NJIT Division of Continuing Professional Education (CPE). Qualified professionals can earn stand-alone credits either in IA or Information Systems Auditing (ISA). CPE director Gale Spak noted that people who complete the program might apply their coursework toward academic credit in corresponding master’s degree programs.
“Cyber-security and Information Assurance in the wired and wireless networking environment is one of the key strategic areas of academic and research programs in the department of electrical and computer engineering at NJIT,” said Atam Dhawan, Ph.D., professor and department chair . “The way we depend on information exchange and business transactions using cyber-space today, we need assurance that the communication is secure and the information credible.” Dhawan also directs the Center for Wireless Networking and Internet Security at NJIT.
All courses are certified for academic years 2003-2006 and are compliant with the National Training Standard for information systems security professionals. More information is available from CPE at 973-596-8540.