College Major: Online Espionage

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 @ 06:12 PM gHale

A two-year course that trains students in online espionage is now available for those looking to pursue a career with the CIA, National Security Agency (NSA) or Secret Service.

Students taking the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma online espionage coursework are learning how to write computer viruses, hack networks, crack passwords and mine data from a range of digital devices.

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The Cyber Corps program places 85 percent of its graduates with the NSA, known to students as “the fraternity,” or the CIA, which they refer to as “the sorority.”

Sujeet Shenoi, an Indian immigrant to the U.S., founded the program at Tulsa’s Institute for Information Security in 1998 and continues to lead the teaching.

“I throw them into the deep end,” Shenoi said. “And they become fearless.”

Students learn with a mixture of classroom theory and practical field work. Each ends up assigned to a police crime lab on campus to apply their skills to help recover evidence from digital devices.

Much of their work involves gathering evidence against pedophiles, with several students having posed as children on the Internet to lure predators into stings.

His students, also, however, helped solve a triple murder in 2003 by hacking an email account that linked the killer with his victims.

Students in the program also worked with the Secret Service to develop new techniques for extracting data from damaged smartphones, GPS devices and other digital devices.

The NSA in May named Tulsa as one of four centers of academic excellence in cyber operations, alongside Northeastern University in Boston, the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA and Dakota State University in Madison, SD.

“Tulsa students show up to NSA with a lot of highly relevant hands-on experience,” said Neal Ziring, a senior NSA official.

“There are very few schools that are like Tulsa in terms of having participation with law enforcement, with industry, with government.”

Applicants to Tulsa’s program, who have ranged in age from 17 to 63, must be U.S. citizens eligible for security clearance of “top secret” or higher.

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