recommended reading

New Jersey invites vets to compete for cyber residencies at key institutions

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's office sent New Jersey Armed Forced veterans a letter encouraging them to participate in this week’s contest to win scholarships and recognition

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's office sent New Jersey Armed Forced veterans a letter encouraging them to participate in this week’s contest to win scholarships and recognition // L.E.MORMILE / file photo

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has invited service members returning from the Middle East, students and career switchers to join a cyber battle this week for a spot at a community college program with residencies at critical sector companies, state officials told Nextgov.

The Brookdale Community College CyberCenter, similar to a medical teaching hospital, will assign aspiring network defenders to temporary posts at banks, the FBI and other organizations vital to American life, according to organizers.  

In December, Christie’s office sent New Jersey Armed Forced veterans a letter encouraging them to participate in this week’s contest to win scholarships and recognition. Details on next steps, curricula and the full array of benefits were made public over the weekend, state officials said on Sunday.  

This development is a twist in a decade-long struggle to persuade raw talent to enter the short-staffed cybersecurity workforce. Many natural hackers of all ages spend their free time gaming and tinkering with code, but pursue more traditional degrees or computer science research positions.

The journey toward job placement begins on Tuesday with a six-week online competition, said Alan Paller, co-chair of a Homeland Security Department task force that broached the CyberCenter concept. The top 60 scorers will face off on March 23 at Brookdale using “military-grade” computer simulations to fend off intruders and overtake other network targets, he said. Among the finalists, about 10 to 20 will be selected to enroll in in the center.

As of Saturday, 509 individuals in New Jersey had signed up for the online challenge, said Paller, research director for the SANS Institute, a computer security training organization. “This is a pilot.  If it works the idea will be to have parallel programs across the nation and thousands of students going through them,” he said. The effort is still a work in progress, Paller added.

Some critics of this sort of community college instruction say graduates become the equivalent of volunteer first responders, not computer security aficionados.   

“There is a clear difference between training and education,” Gene Spafford, executive director of Purdue University’s CERIAS, a highly-regarded cyber research outfit, told The Daily. “The difference is that training is where you teach people first aid and maybe some who are good will become EMTs; education is where you produce brain surgeons. The focus of the government is they want a whole bunch of people who know first aid.”

The classroom requirements for CyberCenter students include obtaining certifications accredited by the American National Standards Institute, and taking courses in defending computers against adversaries and attacking adversary systems. They also must attend lessons in one “target area” of their choosing: advanced forensics; advanced penetration testing -- authorized hacking to identify computer vulnerabilities; and advanced secure configurations.

Pupils who complete their studies then undergo a six-month residency at a critical sector organization. One placement will be at a New Jersey company running a miniature city that cyber gurus destabilize by infiltrating the town’s electricity supply systems and other infrastructure networks. This year, Air Force personnel are expected to practice securing and attacking the “CyberCity,” which is affiliated with SANS, The Washington Post first reported in November 2012.

The New Jersey competition is free and open to all veterans, current service members, job seekers, New Jersey high school students and New Jersey college students.  

(Image via L.E.MORMILE /

Threatwatch Alert

Network intrusion

Florida’s Concealed Carry Permit Holders Names Exposed

See threatwatch report


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.