Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham was recently the recipient of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society Services Computing Technical Committee’s inaugural 2017 Research Innovation Award for her exceptional research and for her innovations in integrating cyber security, data analytics, and cloud computing. She was presented with this award at the premier IEEE Services Conference Federation in Honolulu, Hawaii on June 26, 2017.
Thuraisingham’s career in cyber security and data analytics began in the mid-1980s when she joined Honeywell, where she was a principal designer of (i) Lock Data Views, one of the two premier high assurance multi-level secure database systems funded by the United States Air Force, (ii) a Distributed Data Dictionary System, one of the early metadata integration systems supported by Honeywell’s Residential Control Systems Division, and (iii) XIMKON, an Expert System for Process Control Systems supported by Honeywell’s Industrial Automation Control Systems Division.
Since then, she continued to make significant research innovations in cyber security and data analytics throughout the 1990s. During her time at the MITRE Corporation, she designed and developed solutions to integrate multiple secure database systems, distributed database inference controllers, and secured real-time systems funded by the United States Air Force, Navy, and Army. Dr. Thuraisingham has not only published papers on this research in highly-regarded journals and conferences including the IEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering, IEEE International Conference on Data Engineering (ICDE), International Conference on Very Large Data Bases (VLDB) and ACM Object-oriented Programming, Systems, Languages, and Applications (OOPSLA) Conference, but she has also been awarded several patents for these innovations. In addition to continuing her research on integrating cyber security and data analytics, she was also among the first to discuss the security and privacy violations that could occur through data mining, when she presented a keynote presentation at the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) Database Security Conference in Como, Italy in 1996.
After a stint at the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a Program Director in Information Management as well as in Cyber Trust between 2001 and 2004 where she spearheaded efforts on securing the semantic web and data privacy, she joined The University at Texas at Dallas to head the Cyber Security Research and Education Institute (CSI) in October 2004. It was at UT Dallas where she began integrating her research in cyber security and data analytics with the cloud. Together with her colleagues at UT Dallas, Dr. Latifur Khan, and Dr. Murat Kantarcioglu, the team designed and developed ground-breaking solutions for applying data analytics techniques for malware detection and social media systems, as well as are developing the first of its kind Assured Information Sharing System in the cloud, which was commended by the United States Air Force in 2010 (click here to read more about this story). Her research with the UT Dallas team has resulted in publications in prestigious venues such as the IEEE Transactions on Services Computing, IEEE Transactions on Dependable and Secure Computing, IEEE International Conference on Data Mining (ICDM), ACM SIGKDD Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining (KDD), ACM Conference on Data and Applications Security (CODASPY), IEEE Cloud, Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), and European Symposium on Research in Computer Security (ESORICS), but also has yielded the team multiple patents on data analytics for security applications.
Dr. Thuraisingham’s research has been conducted in collaboration with her colleagues Dr. Latifur Khan and Dr. Murat Kantarcioglu, as well as her students. She notes, “such awards are not possible without team efforts, and at UT Dallas we have one of the best teams conducting highly innovative research on integrating cyber security with data science.” For example, the team applies data science techniques including machine learning for detecting malicious software and events. In addition, the big data systems are secured by designing appropriate access control and encryption techniques. Secure cloud computing is utilized to provide scalable security and data analytics services. Thuraisingham dedicates her research innovation award to the team at the Cyber Security Research and Education Institute at UT Dallas.
In addition to this research innovation award, Thuraisingham has also received multiple technical awards for her research over the past 20 years including (i) the IEEE Computer Society’s 1997 Technical Achievement Award for Outstanding Contributions to Secure Distributed Database Management, (ii) the 2010 ACM Special Interest Group on Security, Audit and Control (SIGSAC) Outstanding Contributions Award for Seminal Research Contributions and Leadership in Data and Applications Security for over 25 years, (iii) the 2012 Society for Design and Process Science (SDPS) Transformative Achievement Gold Medal for Trans-Disciplinary Research in Cyber Security, (iv) a 2013 IBM Faculty Award for Secure Cloud Computing, and (v) the 2017 ACM Conference on Data and Applications Security and Privacy (CODASPY) Research Award for Lasting and Innovative Research Contributions to the Field Spanning 32 years. She also received the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association’s (AFCEA) Medal of Merit in 2011 for her contributions to professional education at AFCEA and has received multiple research leadership awards from various organizations including at IEEE’s Intelligence and Security Informatics Conference in 2010 and IEEE’s Information Reuse and Integration Conference in 2014. She is also a 2003 Fellow of both the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Priming the Pipeline: Education
From a young age, Serita Sargent was always interested in technology and would take apart her mom’s old Nokia phones for fun. But it wasn’t until her freshman year of high school that her hobby turned into a passion. She found her calling in life when she participated one week in Hour of Code, a nonprofit organization that aims to encourage students and others to learn computer science.
“It was truly amazing and mind-blowing to me to be able to put lines and blocks together to create something,” Sargent says. “I started teaching myself code from there, but I wasn’t alone.”
Her school had a Technology Student Association that allowed her to meet other girls who loved code just as much as she did. Sargent’s town also held Women in Technology meetings and she was able to spend time with Black Girls Code, a nonprofit that focuses on technology education for African-American girls.
“I’ve never felt so empowered and to be in a room filled with so many beautiful and intelligent young girls truly inspired me to keep going,” Sargent says. “I think young girls need motivation more than anything and to know that Barbies aren’t the only thing they’re allowed to play with.”
Sargent continued to follow her passion during her higher education and went on to receive an (ISC)2 Women in Cybersecurity Scholarship. Not everyone, though, has the opportunity to be immersed in a supportive environment with programs geared toward helping women succeed in STEM fields which plays a factor in the shortage of women in cybersecurity.
Getting more women into the field requires getting more women involved in computer sciences at an earlier age and giving them opportunities similar to those Sargent had. And that takes more educational efforts geared toward showing girls the opportunities the field offers.
Studies have shown that more diverse workforces lead to better ideas, products and even an overall increase in profitability. Yet despite those benefits, nearly all of the major tech companies that have released diversity reports reveal the overwhelming of their tech staff as male, including Uber at 85 percent male, Facebook at 83 percent male, and Apple fairing out slightly better at 77 percent male.
Achieving more diversity in tech will require both public and private sector efforts to “prime the pipeline” by integrating computer science into the everyday curriculum, providing more extra-curricular coding programs, and hosting capture-the-flag competitions, all of which offer insight into what cybersecurity is actually about.
STEM education has to be emphasized from a very young age, as early as kindergarten or first grade, to motivate more girls to get into the field. Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham, professor of computer science at the University of Texas, tells SC Media.
“It is well known that women like jobs that are nurturing – like medicine, nursing and teaching. Engineering and technology jobs are not,” Thuraisingham (left) says. “So it has to be stressed to the girls that engineering and technology work helps humans.”
Educators must help girls understand that we would not have companies like Facebook and Instagram if not for technology and that every effort must be made to train girls in technology from an early age to help develop an early interest, she explains.
“Unlike hardcore engineering subjects, IT can be made much more appealing to girls, especially application-oriented subjects like human computer interaction and social media,” Thuraisingham says.
More importantly, she says, women need role models – and while this may have improved a lot with more women becoming CEOs and vice presidents – this abyss could be keeping more girls from getting into technology. Getting more young girls interested in tech alone isn’t enough to get women involved in cybersecurity.
More parents, guidance counselors and even computer science teachers need to be educated in the possibilities that cybersecurity offers to help encourage more young people to get into the field through recommendation.
To continue reading the rest of this article by SC Media, please click here.
Women in IT Security: Academics and Voting
Via SC Media – Reported by Robert Abel, Content Coordinator/Reporter – Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham was recognized by SC Media within the category, Women in IT Security: Academics and Voting. Along with Dr. Thuraisingham, three others were recognized within the academics category including Shafi Goldwasser, Ruby Lee, and Wenjing Lou. Four others were recognized within the voting category including Caitriona Fitzgerald, Susannah Goodman, Leslie Reynolds, and Pamela Smith.
Click here to read each woman’s profile about their contributions to women in IT security within the fields of academia and voting on SC Media’s website.
ABOUT THE UT DALLAS COMPUTER SCIENCE DEPARTMENT
The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 2,100 bachelor’s-degree students, more than 1,000 MS master’s students, 150 PhD students, and 86 faculty members, as of Fall 2016. With The University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.