PROVO — Brigham Young University is being called one of the nation's elite institutions in teaching cyber security.

The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security designated BYU as a National Center for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education on Thursday. 

The certification is due to the curriculum that Information Technology program chair J Ekstrom started eight years ago. The curriculum in cyber security demonstrates a growing number of professionals within the college with the ability to provide cyber security to all sectors.

The designation “meets the increasingly urgent needs of the U.S. government, industry and academia,” the NSA said in a statement.

Ekstrom said BYU received the accreditation in part due to the large number of cyber security classes compared to other institutions. The university also had to show up-to-date practices in their security systems.

“Not only will this give BYU access to important funding, but also the recognition will open doors for collaboration with other universities in this field of study," said BYU cyber security professor Dale Rowe.

The NSA is currently building a data center in Bluffdale.

The security emphasis will help BYU students compete with 130 CAE/IAE certified institutions in the country for scholarships and grants. BYU is one of seven to receive the honor this year.

BYU's IT program offers a curriculum on cyber security and is one of five computing disciplines in the College of Engineering. BYU is the only CAE/IAE certified institution in Utah.