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UT Dallas Cyber Security Institute Hosts the 7th Annual Texas Security Awareness

The UT Dallas Cyber Security Research and Education Institute (CSI) in conjunction with the UT Dallas Computer Science Department hosted their 7th Annual Texas Security Awareness Week (TexSAW) last semester. For two days, TexSAW brings together both Computer Science and Software Engineering students from across Texas who are interested in pursuing careers in computer security and expanding their knowledge in cyber security. The event provides students with the opportunity to socialize and network with students from other universities in Texas who share a common interest in cyber security.   Twenty-nine people from ten different universities attended the event.

The first day of TexSAW’17 featured workshops and lectures led by UT Dallas CS students in Scholarship for Service (SFS) Program, a Cyber Security scholarship program sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The lectures and workshops aim to address the development of several fundamental hands-on skills in cyber security related topics including web securitycryptography, and reverse engineering. The following UT Dallas CS and Scholarship for Service (SFS) students and Computer Security Group (CSG) members led the workshops at TexSAW’17: Travis Wright, Marina George, Nick Ramos, Ian Brown, Ryan Kao, Alan Padilla, Kyle Tillotson, Hugo Espiritu, and Tristan Duckworth.

The event was sponsored by State Farm and featured a keynote speech by State Farm’s  Sean Hollingsead who gave his talk titled “Changes and Growth in Cyber Security,” where he discussed the changes and growth that he has seen within the field cyber security. Sean Hollingsead has had over 17 years of experience working in the fields of Information Technology and Cyber Defense. As part of his assignments within State Farm Sean has led multiple security teams as a team lead focused on infrastructure security and access management. Additionally, Sean has been an IT Architect and Lead IT Architect In his prior assignments within State Farm. In those assignments, he has designed security controls for a large business intelligence architecture, internal virtual cloud environment, and an access control program.

During the second day of TexSAW’17, attendees were separated into teams of two and were tasked with applying the knowledge and tools that they had learned from the previous day’s workshops to compete in a Cyber Security Capture-The-Flag (CTF) Competition. The Jeopardy-style contest, lasting over three hours, included several questions with varying difficulty levels for each of the students to work on. The competition is created and managed by SFS and CSG students.

Dr. Kamil Sarac, associate professor of computer science, who is principal investigator and director of UT Dallas’ Scholarship for Service (SFS) Program, has been organizing TexSAW with the assistance of Ms. Rhonda Walls, CSI project coordinator since 2010 when the SFS Program began at the UT Dallas Computer Science Department.

TexSAW will once again take place for the 8th year in November 2018 at the UT Dallas Computer Science Department.

Click here to view additional photos from the 7th Annual Texas Security Awareness Week.


The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 2,400 bachelor’s-degree students, more than 1,000 master’s students, 150 Ph.D. students,  53 tenure-track faculty members and 38 full-time senior lecturers, as of Fall 2017. 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.

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