MANHATTAN, Kan., Sept. 18 (UPI) -- The National Science Foundation has announced $2.3 million in scholarships to qualified U.S. students interested in becoming cybersecurity professionals.
The funds have been provided to Kansas State University's department of computing and information sciences for a scholarship program in conjunction with newly developed courses offered by the department, a university release said Tuesday.
"The nation is in dire need of people who are capable of handling the cybersecurity challenges we face," professor of computing and information sciences Xinming "Simon" Ou said. "We are lagging behind in the number of experts we have versus the threats we see."
"Hackers are performing cyber espionage by gathering information on companies, seeking out national secrets or starting cyberwarfare by disabling critical infrastructure," he said.
A newly developed course at the university, Cyber Defense Basics, uses a contained off-the-grid cybersecurity lab for mock exercises, allowing instructors to test students' abilities to defend against cyberattacks without infecting systems outside the lab.
It teaches students the basics of cyber defense and how to counterattack.
"The public may not be very aware of how vulnerable we are these days, but the government is," department head Gurdip Singh said.
"That's why training the next generation to counter these attacks is so important. This scholarship program will be a wonderful opportunity for students interested in the field."
Scholarship applicants must be U.S. citizens, will be subjected to background checks, and are obligated to serve a government agency in a cybersecurity position for the equivalent number of years they received the scholarship, school officials said.