Rick Aman

College of Eastern Idaho President Rick Aman

BOISE — Officials from two eastern Idaho organizations spoke to the House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee on Monday. Representatives from Idaho National Laboratory and College of Eastern Idaho, as well as North Idaho College, College of Southern Idaho, College of Western Idaho and Western Governors University, addressed the importance of cybersecurity and the need for increased education in this field.

“This is a major national security issue and threat. … Our adversaries see cyber vulnerabilities as one of the best opportunities to get an advantage on us, a strategic advantage, and that’s the new battlespace for the next couple of decades,” said Scott Cramer, director of INL’s Cybercore Integration Center.

Cramer said Texas’ recent power issues are an example of what the United States’ adversaries could do with a cyber attack. Cramer said they will try to “take down the grid for multiple months at a time.”

Cramer said current security efforts are insufficient and criticized the country’s system of fixing a problem after a security breach has occurred. Cramer wants to take an “anticipatory” approach to “get ahead of the problems.”

Cramer believes focusing on cybersecurity in education is essential for correcting this problem.

“We’re way behind on developing the technical expertise we need nationwide to get after this problem. We’re probably a decade behind in developing the cyber and technical talent we need to. And that’s why we desperately need to get insinuated with the universities to help with curriculum development all the way down to the STEM level,” Cramer said.

Eleanor Taylor, manager of INL’s Cybercore Integration Center, said it was important for Idaho education institutes to “leverage the collective assets that exist across the state” to “increase our talent pipeline, to enhance our workforce development efforts, to transport laboratory and industry knowledge into the classroom.”

“Our community colleges and university partners have been great advocates in making this vision a reality,” Taylor said.

Taylor believes if Idaho “address(es) that national need and talent gap” in cybersecurity, Idaho can become the nation’s cyber leader and create “a model for the country to follow.”

According to College of Eastern Idaho President Rick Aman, his college is “months away from being certified” by the National Center of Academic Excellence in cybersecurity. He said CEI can provide an affordable way for students to obtain an education in cybersecurity while creating relationships with those in the industry through INL.

Gov. Brad Little has been an advocate of enhancing cybersecurity in recent years. He made significant cybersecurity funding recommendations in his 2021 budget. In October, $4.7 million in CARES Act money was put toward updating state computer networks and security.

The speakers stressed the need for continued support from the state in the field of cybersecurity.