Tulsa Leading in Cyberterrorism Training

Monday, July 12th 2004, 12:28 pm
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ The newest fighters against cyberterrorism may come from a class comprised of a student, a former amateur golfer and a Vietnam War veteran.

They are in training at the nation's largest ``Cyber Corps'' institution, located at the University of Tulsa.

The concept of ``Cyber Corps,'' a group of computer security specialists who would detect cyberterrorism, grew out of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

That day, Tulsa computer scientist Sujeet Shenoi and other computer experts gathered for a meeting in Washington to discuss the need for a group to combat cyberterrorism. The Sept. 12, 2001, meeting was to launch the ``Cyber Corps'' program. Seeing hijacked jets crash into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon only solidified their resolve.

``Everybody realized how right we were,'' he said.

Since then, the corps has grown from six universities to 20. It has been recruiting, training and placing some of the nation's sharpest minds in various government agencies that rely heavily on computers and the digital data they digest.

The trainees have different reasons for joining the program, ranging from a ``full-ride'' scholarship worth up to $100,000 to the opportunity it presents for adventure.

Leigh Ann Winters, a Tulsa Cyber Corps grad, said she likes to participate in raids with special agents.

After agents secure a scene, Winters, a University of Oklahoma graduate, enters wearing her ``Computer Forensics'' jacket and protective vest to search through computer files.

``I get to go in and be the computer geek,'' she said.

She scours hard drives, cellular phones or cameras for digital evidence for ``fighting the bad guy in the computer world.''

Corps members receive two years of training, then must serve two years working for the federal government to repay the investment.

Tulsa officials this week announced the school has received a $4.7 million National Science Foundation grant for its program. Three other institutions, Carnegie Mellon University, the Naval Postgraduate School and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, also received grants.

Tulsa's program has graduated 47 students in the past three years and has 38 students in training.

For his Cyber Corps, Shenoi is looking for the best and most diverse applicants, people with specialized abilities and keen intellect. But he wants more than just technical talent.

``Not just workers, we want leaders,'' he said.