The Federal Virtual Training Environment, also known as FedVTE is offered by the Department of Homeland Security and features “online, on-demand cybersecurity training” at no cost to the learner. The FedVTE official site says more than 800 hours of cybersecurity training is available in a variety of subjects including ethical hacking.
The Need For FedVTE
This program emphasizes the need for continuous training to manage and eliminate cybersecurity threats to government systems. According to FedVTE, “To ensure a secure cyberspace, we must develop a technologically skilled workforce and an effective pipeline of future employees.”
FedVTE does this via a wide variety of online training topics including coding, ethical hacking, cloud computing security training, and much more. The classes can be as diverse as the computer networks and operating environments themselves.
FedVTE Class Time Commitments
Some classes are as short as one hour, others may require much longer time commitments. For example, the offerings current at the time of this writing include the one-hour training course in Advanced PCAP Analysis and Signature Development, aimed at intermediate-level learners, plus the 29-hour Certified Ethical Hacker Version 10 (CEHv10) Prep course.
As you can see, depending on the level of intensity learning-wise, different time commitments may be required.
FedVTE Training: Not Just “White Hat Hacker” Lessons
Those new to cybersecurity may be surprised to learn of classes offered by FedVTE such as the course known as Cyber Dark Arts, which focuses on “deceptive activities that are employed by malicious users via the Internet.”
Learning how “the enemy” thinks and approaches computer security is an important part of understanding how to protect government networks and systems. This class and others offered like it may explore how hackers approach “legitimate purpose technologies and techniques” and how they are manipulated.
You may also learn about zero-day attacks, the existence and function of the “dark web” and anonymous services for hackers. These issues are presented “in order for cybersecurity experts to defend against such attacks.”
A (Very) Brief History Of The Federal Virtual Training Environment
In November 2015, Deputy Assistant Secretary Greg Touhill of the Office of Cybersecurity & Communications at the Department of Homeland Security issued a press release announcing a partnership between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and a non-profit agency called Hire Our Heroes.
That partnership involved offering FedVTE to veterans in search of training opportunities for cybersecurity. The program’s offerings at that time included Information Technology certifications such as:
- Network +
- Security +
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional
In 2019, the links that took new users to a signup page created for this partnership began redirecting users to a different job site associated with a partnership between the USO and Skillsoft.
The partnership between Hire Our Heroes and FedVTE ended and 2019 marked a new era for the cybersecurity training program. From 2019 forward FedVTE is administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, with support provided by the Department of Defense Information Systems Agency.
Once FedVTE began operating without the Hire Our Heroes partnership, those with federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government “.gov” emails were required to sign up for courses at the FedVTE official site. Eligible veterans who are not currently government employees are asked to verify veteran status before registering.
How FedVTE Works
FedVTE signup instructions current at the time of this writing directs all applicants to start the registration process at fedvte.usalearning.gov. These no-cost-to-the-user courses are offered to veterans, government employees, and even government contractors. The classes offered range from beginner-level to advanced cybersecurity courses.
Some government agencies have specific training requirements that may or may not be met through these courses. You may need to reference certain regulations such as DoD 8570 for specific requirements.
Users must sign up with .gov email accounts or have their eligibility verified before signing up. These courses are not available to the general public, but the FedVTE official site says all veterans are eligible to take the classes.
Once you have signed up you can browse the FedVTE class list which includes instruction in the following ranges of general subjects such as:
- 101-level courses
- Basic level courses
- Collection and Operations
- “Operate and Maintain”
- “Oversee and Govern”
- “Protect and Defend”
- “Securely Provision”
New courses offerings are added “on a rolling basis” as they become available. FedVTE courses offer a completion certificate, but this should not be confused with certifications earned from testing. Some specific course offerings include:
- Security +
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- 101 Coding
- 101 Critical Infrastructure Protection
- 101 Reverse Engineering
The FedVTE official site says one goal of these courses is to prepare the learner for the certification exams they need. “Keep in mind,” the official site reminds, “that you must adhere to each individual certification provider’s requirements including meeting experience requirements and paying any applicable fees.”
Continuing Education Requirements And FedVTE
Some jobs require continuing education and in order to remain certified this education must meet the licensing agency’s standards. FedVTE does NOT offer Continuing Education Units or what the official site describes as CPE (continuing professional education) units.
However, that does NOT mean you cannot earn CEU or CPE units through VTE courses–it’s simply up to the certifying body to issue you those credits rather than via FedVTE.
Some certifying bodies may permit your FedVTE classes as CEU or CPEs, some may not. In any case, you will be required to submit documentation to the certifying body (submission requirements may vary) so a determination can be made.
Not all FedVTE courses are considered for continuing education credits–ask before you commit.
Taking FedVTE Courses
FedVTE is an unclassified system and does not require classified access. Some FedVTE courses may be available outside the agency or department you are taking them for; you may or may not be permitted to take FedVTE classes outside your department depending on the nature of the coursework and other requirements.
You’ll need to ask first before applying for classes you wish to work on at home or outside the department.
FedVTE Is Mobile-Friendly
Coursework for FedVTE is designed to be accessed via mobile devices such as tablets, smartphones, etc. If you are interested in accessing the classes from a private device as opposed to mobile technology provided to you by your employer, it’s best to ask first.
Signing Up For VTE As A Veteran
As mentioned above, FedVTE classes are offered to veterans as well as existing government employees and contractors. Veterans are asked to register at fedvte.usalearning.gov.
You will be prompted to enter an email address where you do “official government business.” If you do not have a .gov email and enter your private email, you are taken to a screen where you will be asked to select your status as one of the following:
- Veteran of a US military service
- Employee of a state/tribal/territorial/local government
- Federal contractor
- Federal employee
You’ll also be prompted to enter your name and branch of service. Once you have entered your information, you will receive a validation code via email and you can proceed with the full signup procedure from there.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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