DISA office secures spot in training

Training has surfaced as a critical component of protecting federal information resources against modern-day cyberattacks, and one resource for information security training lies in the Defense Information Systems Agency's Infosec Program Management Office.

The office has developed a series of CD-ROMs and videos that can be distributed physically or across an agency's network to provide employees with basic security awareness.

DISA originally focused on the needs of Defense Department information security officers but has expanded its topics to encompass all federal agencies. That has increased its use at the Federal Aviation Administration, the Treasury Department and other civil agencies.

The CDs include traditional classroom-style programs such as Operational Information Systems Security, Information Assurance for Auditors and Evaluators, and DOD Infosec Awareness. A game-style awareness program called CyberProtect has been added (see review).

"CyberProtect is an exercise to familiarize new system administrators with security threats, motivations behind threats, protection and decision-making skills for applying protective measures," said George Bieber, information assurance education, training, awareness and products branch chief at DISA.

The training CDs are laid out to meet the requirements under the DOD systems administrator certification criteria established in 1998. Under the certification, there are three levels at which system administrators can be qualified (see Systems Administrator Certification, Page 20).

"We really want the system administrators to know this stuff; we really want the information system security officers to know this stuff," Bieber said.

The CIO Council also has expressed interest in using the CDs to certify all government systems administrators, and demand for these offerings has increased significantly in the past year as word of their existence has spread, Bieber said. In fiscal 1998, DISA sent out 30,000 CDs and videos governmentwide. In fiscal 1999, the number ordered rose to 100,000.

Some of the CDs also are being sold to the public through the Commerce Department's National Technical Information Service, Bieber said.

Next year's priorities include moving the courseware to a World Wide Web-based environment and developing new training CDs for critical information protection issues, he said.

NASA has used DISA's expertise to develop a training CD specifically for its employees. The CDs are starting to be distributed across the agency for general IT security training and awareness, and the courseware has been transferred to the Web under NASA's Solaris program.

Now NASA is adding to its training program to meet the expanding needs of the agency.

"We have as an internal metric within NASA that [during fiscal 2000] we will have delivered first-level systems administrator training to 50 percent of our civil service administrators. And we have and are putting requirements into our contracts...for the same level for contractor systems administrators," said Dave Nelson, deputy chief information officer at NASA.

Led by the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, all NASA centers are testing commercial training programs.

The centers are reporting to GRC on their findings, and the agency will choose those that best fulfill its needs. Those courses then will be mapped to the level requirements to provide employees with choices for each level of certification, said Robert Solomon, computer services division security coordinator at GRC.

"We didn't want to say, 'Here's eight courses. Everyone take the same eight courses,' " Solomon said.

The Unix administrator certification will be available in January, and the Microsoft Corp. Windows NT certification courses will be available in March or April, he said.

These courses will be added to NASA's Solaris Web page. The agency is encouraging employees to use the Web-based version of the training instead of the CDs because of the ability to track employees who are using the programs, Nelson said.

NASA officials will be better able to keep up with changing vulnerabilities by using the training courses from industry rather than creating their own, Solomon said. "As the vendors publicize changes to their courses, we can add them to our list and stay current with technology," he said.

The agency also is working on a template to be able to measure employees' skills to better determine what kind of training each employee needs. "Unless we know just where we're at, we don't know what we need to develop and what needs improvement," Solomon said.

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