Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the federal Department of Defense hope a new program will turn the city into a place where college students can learn how to out-hack computer hackers.
Emanuel and a top U.S. Department of Defense official introduced a six-month pilot "cybersecurity boot camp" at one of the city's community colleges on Wednesday. They said it is the first such partnership between a community college and the federal agency.
The program, scheduled to begin this spring at Wilbur Wright College on the city's Northwest Side, will teach students essentially the same skills that hackers use to breach government and private companies' computer systems. It's modeled after a program offered to uniformed personnel only at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., and will be available to military personnel, veterans and other students.
"If you are going to defend against that you need people that can go in and do penetration testing, find vulnerabilities in your operating systems and patch them before someone else does ..." said Frank C. DiGiovanni, director of force training with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness.
Emanuel said he's confident that the federal government will not divest in the program after Donald Trump takes office later this week because cybersecurity is a "national security priority." He also pointed to DiGiovanni's statement that the Defense Department hopes that the Chicago program will be the first of many across the United States.
"I think it will be permanent because their needs are permanent," Emanuel said.
Both Emanuel and DiGiovanni said the demand for people with such skills far outstrips the number of people that have them, with the mayor saying that there are now 200,000 jobs created a year in cybersecurity.
The field is only expected to grow in the wake of high-profile computer system breaches for credit, debit card data and other information. And most famously, was the recent accusation by U.S. intelligence officials that Russian hackers hacked into the Democratic National Committee to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton in November's election.