Iowa State once again named national center of excellence in information assurance

AMES, Iowa -- Two federal security agencies have just awarded Iowa State University its fourth designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education.

Iowa State was among the first six universities to be designated national centers for information assurance in 1999. The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security renewed Iowa State's designation in 2002, 2005 and now 2008. The most recent designation is for five years.

"This is something that indicates the depth and breadth of our program," said Doug Jacobson, an Iowa State professor of electrical and computer engineering and the director of Iowa State's Information Assurance Center.

The designation helps Iowa State compete for federal scholarships and grants, Jacobson said. It also helps Iowa State attract students to its information security programs.

The centers are "intended to reduce vulnerabilities in the national information infrastructure by promoting higher education in information assurance and producing a growing number of professionals with information assurance expertise in various disciplines," according to a joint statement from the federal agencies.

The agencies sponsor the national centers as part of President George W. Bush's National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace. That strategy refers to cyberspace as the nervous system of the country's critical infrastructure. And it says a healthy, functioning cyber system is essential to the country's economy and national security.

Jacobson said universities have to pass a two-step process to be designated national centers of academic excellence: First, a program's coursework has to meet government training standards. And second, programs have to complete a large report that details their programs, including the number of researchers working in information security, the amount of research funding they attract and the information security policies their universities have in place.

Iowa State's Information Assurance Center includes 28 faculty members who study a range of computer security issues including intrusion detection, wireless networks, e-commerce, electronic democracy and curriculum for information assurance education.