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Cyber Corps Program Trains Spies For the Digital Age, In Oklahoma 118

Posted by timothy
from the work-study dept.
David Hume writes "The Los Angeles Times has a story about the two-year University of Tulsa Cyber Corps Program. About '85% of the 260 graduates since 2003 have gone to the NSA, which students call "the fraternity," or the CIA, which they call "the sorority."' 'Other graduates have taken positions with the FBI, NASA and the Department of Homeland Security.' According to the University of Tulsa website, two programs — the National Science Foundation's Federal Cyber Service: Scholarship for Service and the Department of Defense's (DOD's) Information Assurance Scholarship Program — provide scholarships to Cyber Corps students."
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Cyber Corps Program Trains Spies For the Digital Age, In Oklahoma

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  • Yeah, but Tulsa (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mekkab (133181) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @08:49AM (#42081237) Homepage Journal
    Sounds like you do some really cool cyber-stuff and I'd love to join your cyber-group but living in Tulsa for two years? Ehhhhh...

    /here's hoping no one from OK has mod points
    • by arisvega (1414195)

      Sounds like you do some really cool cyber-stuff

      Where did you read that? There is barely any information about the content of the course at the university 's website, under a very tacky "Do you have what it takes" [utulsa.edu] intro, a McGyver reference, a promise for a 90% chance of landing a men-in-black job, and how this awesome initiative has been picked up from the news. No real information about what you actually DO.

      • As with any position in federal service, you do what is asked of you. This isn't meant to sound trite; speaking as someone who has drawn paychecks from the military and has worked in the private sector in various information technology roles both before and after the DoD (and some gray in between), it's a reality that should be given serious thought. Take it for what it's worth, the primary point being that regardless of your job title, your first priority is your orders.

        This has advantages and disadvantage

        • by gruntled (107194)

          I have to say I disagree. One of my key values to my organization comes from my ability to state why a preferred course of action does not comply with the law, regulations, and requirements. My job is not (exclusively) to do what is asked of me; my job is to comply with the oath of office, to protect the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

          Now, it is true that being willing to say "No" can affect your career path. But it's also true that all the guys who have threatened

        • by arisvega (1414195)

          As with any position in federal service, you do what is asked of you.

          Interesting point, but my question was on the actual content of this program and how it is laid out: one can perhaps easily fit at least eight courses in two years, at this level. So what individual courses does this program have, and how many are they? How much math is involved, for example, and how about programming courses?

          • by gruntled (107194)

            Each college offers its own coursework; there are hundreds of colleges certified as NSA centers of excellence; some of them are indeed excellent, and some of them are...not. The last time I checked out the Tulsa program, it emphasized teaching programming principles in java. Some programs have no coding requirements at all; they train you to be a policy specialist. Many, if not most, programs are very hard core in terms of technical requirements.

    • Tulsa is a pretty nice place.....big city with plenty to do....not a hick town by any stretch.....lot of nice lakes and forests to the Northeast (they call it Green Country), so lots of places to go if you are the outdoorsy type... Tulsa is only an hours drive from me.....would be neat to check out that program to further my IT career, but they probably wouldn't take an old fart like me... ;)
      • Re:Yeah, but Tulsa (Score:5, Interesting)

        by gruntled (107194) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @10:17AM (#42081559)

        I joined the Cyber Corps in my Forties. Tulsa and I were talking quite a bit but eventually I wound up applying to another school instead. There are currently hundreds of schools across the United States that participate in the Cyber Corps program.

        • by HornWumpus (783565) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @10:44AM (#42081683)

          I just gotta say, what kind of boring life did you lead that you could pass a background check in your 40s.

          It one thing to be pass at 20 when you've had no time to get into any fun, but 40? I could never remember all the crimes I have committed. Halfway thought the polygraph the examiner would just start smacking me, 'you did what? Why are you wasting my time!'

          • by gruntled (107194)

            Using drugs is not an automatic disqualification. Committing a crime is not an automatic disqualification. Lying about it is an automatic disqualification.

            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by HornWumpus (783565)

              Tyler Durden could pass if he just fessed up? What if I fessed up to an ongoing crime?

              e.g. My most recent fun: Armature psych ops against paranoid political types (fleabaggers, teabaggers, code pink, EFF etc etc). Flying a scale model predator drone over their protests. Feeds their paranoia, makes them foam at the mouth, more irrelevant. The key is putting plant into the crowd so the drone is spotted on schedule, right as it goes out of good camera range. Not criminal (I'm careful of who's airspace I fly

          • The fact that you think you have to commit crimes to have fun is.. strange.

            • by sumdumass (711423)

              I think he is talking about recreational drug use and the likes. You know, the party til you puke crowd that usually comes from college or the first reunion.

              • by Anonymous Coward

                I think he is talking about recreational drug use and the likes. You know, the party til you puke crowd that usually comes from college or the first reunion.

                Which is perfectly valid. They don't care about any of that--what they care is if you're ashamed by it and want to hide it because it is therefore useful to someone interested in blackmailing you.

            • I don't have to commit crimes to have fun. Just the occasional crime kind of happens along the way: Pirating cable/satellite/wireless. Downloading Warez. Collecting and distributing a substantial 'borrowed' music collection. Growing 'medicine' in the yard and indoors (pre and post 215). Putting non-street legal parts on the street. Street racing. Modifying public art. Building and firing machine guns, large 'fire crackers' and missiles. Distilling strong drink without license or tax. Manufacturing zip guns

              • To be fair I've done at least 3 of those.. I prefer the legal alternatives when they're available and affordable though :p

          • by mjwalshe (1680392)
            trouble is you don't want 100% 20 year olds straight out of Uni the Security Service and SIS used to prefer to recruit older people who had more of a track record - and you can make more of a measured judgement.
            • by gruntled (107194)

              Yes, I was quite hesitant but most of the people in my program were older; this was a second career for many of us.

    • but do you want to work over seas for the CIA?? One thing with stuff like this they can make take a job with Fed Gov that may be out at some bunker in a area that most people may not want to go to.

      • by gruntled (107194)

        This article is very poorly researched. There are Cyber Corps graduates in every federal agency. You don't have to work for the CIA / NSA if you don't want to (but you do have to apply for jobs at other agencies; the NSA actively recruits Cyber Corps graduates so if that's the only job offer you get, you have to take it or pay the money back.

      • by sumdumass (711423)

        Bunker where people won't want to go? Try going to an embassy in an area recently torn by war and having the state department turn down your requests for more security on the anniversary of 9/11 when there are known Al Qeada agents operating in the area.

        This is something people should be giving serious thought to. If the government sends people over seas, will they do it right and safely or will they forget there might be a danger in some places and leave you to die?

    • by Type44Q (1233630)

      From Oklahoma? They might mod you down. Living here but from elswhere? Trust me, we're far more likely to mod you up.

  • As an Okie and a techie who's more than a little concerned about online privacy and yro, I don't know whether to be proud or horrified.

  • by LanMan04 (790429) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @08:53AM (#42081265)

    Wow, good ol' Cyber Corp! I entered the program (the one in Tulsa, it's also at other schools, but Tulsa is the "heart" of the program) in January 2003 and had my MS in Comp Sci in 3 semesters, graduating in May 2004.

    You're able to go to school full-time because they pay for your books, tuition, AND give you a stipend for housing/food/living either on or off campus. And that buck goes pretty far in Tulsa (I think my 2 bed, 2 bath appt was $550/month).

    I went through the NSF-version of the program. The DoD version was for military personnel only (I think?) who wanted to get a better degree.

    I was one of the few that didn't go to NSA. Wasn't comfortable with being a super-spook (especially during the Bush years), so I went to a more "benign" agency. You MUST make sure that you'll be able to get a security clearance before you sign up, because if you get selected for the program, go through it, and then can't get a job because you're not clearable, you owe ALL the money back (like $40K or so). However, I had one arrest with a suspended sentence (minor pot possession) and was able to get a Secret clearance with no trouble, though YMMV.

    TU (University of Tulsa) has had an Information Assurance program since loooong before it was popular (very early 90s?), so they've had time to build up talent and are VERY well connected in terms of getting you a job. You're pretty much guaranteed a job at NSA. I know several folks who went there and enjoy the work. I know several others who didn't and left for the private sector after their "time as up".

    It's a "scholarship for service" system for paying back your tuition/stipend. If it takes you 3 semesters to get your degree, you have to work for the Fed Gov for 18 months to be fully "paid back". Then you can quit the Gov and go work for a contractor and make big $ since you're already cleared. I stayed in Fed service for 2.5 years and then went back to the private sector.

    Feel free to ask me any other questions. It was a great deal and I'm so happy I was able to get a free MS out of it.

    • I work at a privately held FFRDC which hires a lot of scholarship for service graduates. I had no idea such a program even existed until I was hired a few months ago. It sounds like a great way to get a masters degree paid for (I graduated with a PhD which was funded by an NSF grant, but MS students are rarely that lucky). Like you said, a lot of the SFS graduates put in their two years and leave although FFRDC pay and benefits are significantly better than what the feds offer.
    • what happens if you get layed off??

      With all the take of auto cuts coming you can be layed off and be on the hook for the money back as well.

      • by LanMan04 (790429)

        If you get laid off through no fault of your own, you don't owe $.

        I'd have to go back and check my contract (you do sign a contract), but I believe you only owe $ back if you can't get a job at all, are unclearance-able, or get fired for cause.

      • by Tontoman (737489) *
        These jobs are relatively immune from competition with H-1B visa holders.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I spotted the fed.

      This is getting too easy.

      Thanks for posting, +5 informative.

    • by http (589131)
      If they're handing you a Masters after 3 semesters, you must have had one hell of a thesis that everyone should read (and watch a vid of your defense), or it's an absolutely worthless piece of paper.
  • Do they admit anyone with tuition, or must all students be sponsored by some government agency? Are the full range and content of courses available to non-government-sponsored students?

    Might be a good idea for the EFF and/or other similar watchdog/defense organizations to set up a scholarship to train those who would help defend us from precisely the things they're teaching.

    I'd be willing to bet long odds that a large percentage of the government-sponsored student graduates will end up using their skills ag

    • by gruntled (107194) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @09:49AM (#42081463)

      Tuition is not an issue with the program (at least at the Master's level). It's a free ride, with a monthly stipend. The program is designed to allow students with families and mortgages to focus on school full time. No agency sponsorship is required; you compete for a slot just like a regular student. In some schools you can even design your own program (that's what I did; I could attend any class in any discipline, as long as I justified it with my advisor). I attended one of the top engineering schools in the country, and got paid to do it. Your only obligation is to seek employment from the government. if you don't get a job offer on graduation, you can take your degree and go. The downside is that if you only have one job offer, and you don't take it, you have to pay the money back.

      Also, you don't have a clue about what the folks who work for the US government do for you.

      • by BlueStrat (756137)

        Also, you don't have a clue about what the folks who work for the US government do for you.

        Yeah, yeah, yeah "We're from the government, and we're here to help".

        Please stop doing stuff for us. It's destroying the country.

        I know some of what the people who work for the US government do TO us. That's way too much as it is, thanks.

        If those you speak of in the US government want more trust from we the people, they desperately need to focus their efforts on exposing and destroying corruption and betrayal by US government officials and politicians.

        Until that happens, you're all still willing parts in th

        • by gruntled (107194)

          Excellent argument. The government-employed medical doctors doing cutting edge research developing treatments no private sector company will touch because there's not enough profit in it: Clearly corrupt. Those firefighters who parachute in to disaster areas with nothing but a shovel and desire to save whoever they can: Obviously corrupt. People battling for meaningful financial reform against incredibly powerful opponents: Corruption incarnate. The only moral choice is to do nothing; anybody who says they'

          • by BlueStrat (756137)

            Excellent argument. The government-employed medical doctors doing cutting edge research developing treatments no private sector company will touch because there's not enough profit in it: Clearly corrupt. Those firefighters who parachute in to disaster areas with nothing but a shovel and desire to save whoever they can: Obviously corrupt. People battling for meaningful financial reform against incredibly powerful opponents: Corruption incarnate. The only moral choice is to do nothing; anybody who says they're in government to try and do the right thing is obviously lying.

            Nice straw-man arguments there. Too bad I didn't argue any of those. I'm sure that the old Soviet government and Iran's government also did/does some good things. Doesn't make them good guys, and neither does it make the US government good guys.

            Almost every single thing you mentioned could be done at the State and local levels without the Feds except a national financial reform, and nothing you listed requires domestic surveillance (digital or otherwise) of the NSA/CIA/FBI variety.

            At this point in time, the

        • Until that happens, you're all still willing parts in the corrupt, evil machine and will be regarded and treated as such.

          Well said. I find it hard to have any respect towards those who would seek out power and opportunity such as this. Power does not corrupt, but power attracts the corruptible.

  • Poorly researched (Score:5, Informative)

    by gruntled (107194) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @09:41AM (#42081441)

    I joined the Cybercorps in its first year of operation after two decades in an unrelated field; the reason you've never heard of the program is it was scheduled to be announced on Sept. 12, 2011. There are probably hundreds of schools certified as Centers of Excellence by the NSA; some of them are top notch, some of them not so much. I've been working for the government for nearly a decade now: Operations, compliance, and even teaching. Happy to discuss. Here's a link to the official Cyber Corps Web site, run by the Office of Personnel Management: https://www.sfs.opm.gov/ [opm.gov]

  • two-year program so other IT work should not need a BS / BA.

    And this has real work as part the classes and not just loads of theory.

    • This is a masters program. You need a BS just to get in.

      • so cut out smart computer people who are not college material.

        That is the issue what you want these people to do? That can do the job but are not cut out for the rest of college???

        • by HornWumpus (783565) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @11:20AM (#42081843)

          I've worked with a few sharp people with no formal training.

          They would have all benefited from being forced out of their comfort zone in college.

          That said, I've also worked with doctorate level air thieves.

          Math and communication skills are areas that the 'naturals' often skip. Also their egos are often fucking out of control as they have not spent enough time with their intellectual peers. Nothing teaches you humility like running into subjects that force you to work at 100% (true 100% is fucking hard to maintain, 110% is only arrived at with 25%(Mon-Thurs)+10%(Friday)). 'Natural genius's' tend to ignore subjects that threaten their self image, often with a rationalization: 'I don't need to understand K domain, I'll go back and study it if it ever comes up.' It never comes up, their ego is safe. Not that they are alone in this. Zaphod (para) 'If their is anything on this spaceship more important then my ego, I want it taken out and shot'.

        • The security software I developed runs on tens of thousands of web sites. I don't have a college degree. Some might say I have a natural talent. Yet, to really be the best I can, to be an NSA level expert, schooling would really help I'm sure. Natural talent and self-study has gotten me to a certain point, but I'm sure studying with other bright people would take me up a notch or two, even if that's not my comfort zone.
      • by gruntled (107194)

        Actually, you can apply the two years to an undergrad degree and a lot of people do that.

    • by gruntled (107194)

      The program offers four semesters of financial help; it was obviously aimed at the Masters level, but it can be applied to both undergraduate and even a PhD.

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