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There needs to be more cyber security professionals to defeat the threats and hacker attacks that are plaguing businesses, academia and anywhere else where personal information is stored.

That is why cyber security, or information assurance, is one of the hottest areas in higher education.

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“One of the signs of the heightened cyber threat is that the government and corporate America are going on the offensive, as well as defensive, in cyber warfare,” said Michael T. Wood, president and chief executive of Capitol College in Laurel, MD, one of the nation’s leading schools in information assurance, at a meeting of chief information officers.

In Silicon Valley, the cyber security business is booming.

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“This is the issue of the day,” Hewlett-Packard chief executive Meg Whitman said of the growing threat, during a CNBC interview. “I contrast it back to when I started at eBay. I was worried about a teenager in Red Deer, Montana, hacking into our systems. This is now organized crime.”

As a result, Whitman said, “We are really making a big push in security.”

Darius Adamczyk, president and chief executive at Honeywell Process Solutions, said during the Honeywell User Group (HUG) in June the automation industry is losing around $400 billion a year in cyber attacks.

Wood said Capitol College, which offers a bachelor’s, Master’s and doctoral degree in information assurance, emphasized that academia has great responsibility to train a workforce prepared to answer this challenge.

“First, we have to teach the right stuff,” Wood said. “Because information technology is changing so fast that means teaching both technical knowledge and new ways of thinking about it.”

And with an eye toward Capitol College’s own Cyber Lab, Wood stressed that academia must establish learning centers to distribute training and technical-assistance resources to the community.

Capitol’s Cyber Battle Lab is an activity based center located on campus, but capable of being virtual and mobile. Students and faculty members from all disciplines and college class levels participate.

The good news for students is that industry and government need them. ABI Research, a market intelligence firm, reported cyber protection spending should increase to $46 billion.

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