Federal cybersecurity workers might not be far from being able to access top-notch training directly from their computer desktops.
Robert Hollingsworth, director of the security engineering and computer security training division at the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security Training Center, told Wired Workplace on Thursday that State and the Homeland Security Department have begun training federal cyber pros using virtual worlds, where each user has an avatar and is walked through different cyber scenarios.
The virtual worlds courses are part of the Federal Cybersecurity Training Event, or FedCTE, a joint program between State and DHS. The program started in 2008, after the Obama administration's Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative identified a need for addressing cybersecurity training and education within the federal workforce. FedCTE courses also were developed using the specific cybersecurity roles identified by the National Initiative on Cybersecurity Education, Hollingsworth said.
Thus far, the virtual worlds program has trained more than 243 students from 68 agencies on cybersecurity topics like cyber protection, response and mitigation, Hollingsworth said. "The demand is going through the roof," he said. "It's a way for these remote programs to address these cybersecurity areas and be continually modified as vulnerabilities are discovered and new security practices are identified. Even previously trained people can address new concerns in a timely fashion."
Still, Hollingsworth noted that one challenge for government is simply defining the roles, requirements and job tasks needed for federal cybersecurity work. But a goal of the virtual training is to help overcome that hurdle, he added. "We're finding there are a lot of roles and responsibilities that may be unique to a department, and we can go in and customize those portions and touch those individual job descriptions and tweak it," he said. "That would be too hard to do in a real classroom every time, but it's not too hard to adjust these virtual modules."
Going forward, Hollingsworth said the program will continue to expand to include more cybersecurity workers, particularly as it gets more popular through word of mouth. "It's in the ground floor now, but we feel it's going to be mainstreamed and that this form of training will become more of a normal activity for federal security workers," he said. "It will be on their desktops at some point and they can train as needed. It's another tool in their toolbox."