NSA recruits college students for cyber-operations program

The government agency known for its secretive surveillance tactics is opening academic cybersecurity training centers in five US universities.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr


The National Security Agency is looking to grow its ranks with highly-trained college students. The government agency announced Tuesday that it has chosen five new schools to host its specialized Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations Program.

Those handpicked schools include New York University, Towson University, United States Military Academy, University of Cincinnati, and University of New Orleans. In all, the NSA cyber-operations program has a total of 13 schools.

The Centers of Academic Excellence are within each school and students in the program focus on fields like computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering. The select students must go through a rigorous application and screening process to get into the program.

In light of Edward Snowden -- a former NSA contractor -- leaking millions of agency documents to news sources last year, it appears the NSA is being extra careful about who it's grooming to bring on board.

"In the application process and in all collaboration with selected schools, the importance of integrity and compliance is always paramount," Dean of NSA's College of Cyber Operations Steven LaFountain said in a statement. "Cybersecurity technical skills are increasingly important in national defense, but it's equally important to operate within the bounds of the law and Constitution."