NSA lauds The Citadel’s cybersecurity program

Citadel cadet Anthony Zovich works in the school’s cybersecurity computer lab. The public military college recently received recognition from the National Security Agency for its undergraduate and graduate cybersecurity programs.

As a computer science intern at the Department of Homeland Security this spring, Citadel junior cadet Anthony Zovich said he helped make a little tweak that solved a big problem.

“When I got there, they had an external firewall, but if someone on the inside wanted to do some damage, then they could find thousands of policemen and women’s security numbers and addresses,” said Zovich, who is president of the school’s Cybersecurity Club.

Zovich’s solution — a new internal login system that he said is now in use at the department — is the sort of work The Citadel was hoping to produce when the school introduced its undergraduate minor in cybersecurity in 2013, and again when it started offering a graduate certificate in cybersecurity in 2014.

Now the public military college’s fledgling cybersecurity program is getting a big boost of credibility. The Citadel recently earned designation from the National Security Agency as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, becoming the second college in the state to earn the mark after the University of South Carolina.

Provost Connie Book said the new laurel will be important as Citadel graduates seek jobs, not just in military and government, but also in areas like health care and business.

“For us, having this new designation is critically important for our future,” Book said. “It speaks to the unique proposition of a military college in modern day, when so many of the services of our defense system are contracted out to key companies.”

Shankar Banik, an associate professor in The Citadel’s math department, said the NSA designation will give students a leg up when they enter the job market. Citadel students will also be eligible to apply for scholarships through the Department of Defense Information Assurance Scholarship Program and the Federal Cyber Service Scholarship for Service Program.

“It highlights our program. Students graduating from our program will have more opportunities when they go for jobs within the military and industry,” Banik said.

The NSA website currently lists 124 colleges and universities as National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense. The University of South Carolina previously earned an NSA designation for information assurance education from 2010 to 2015.

Reach Paul Bowers at 843-937-5546 or twitter.com/paul_bowers.