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UT Dallas Cyber Security Celebrates Its 6th Annual Texas Security Awareness Week

The UT Dallas Cyber Security Research and Education Institute (CSI) in conjunction with the UT Dallas Computer Science Department hosted their 6th Annual Texas Security Awareness Week (TexSAW 2016) in November 2016. More than 50 students participated from nine schools including UT Dallas, Abilene Christian University, North American University, Sam Houston State University, St. Philip’s College, University of Texas at Arlington, and The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Every year, 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. For the first time, a select number of UT Dallas undergraduate students were invited to participate in the event to explore their interest in pursuing cyber security as their chosen field.

dsc_0015-2This year’s event featured student-taught workshops addressing the development of several fundamental hands-on skills in cyber security-related topics including web securitycryptography, and ethical hacking/penetration testing. The following UT Dallas CS and Scholarship for Service (SFS) students and Computer Security Group (CSG) members led the workshops at TexSAW’16: Marina George, Paul Murley, Kristen Williams, Travis Wright, Ian Brown, Ryan Kao, Joel Seida, Devin Wiley, Raman Sathiapalan, Jeremiah Shipman, and Kyle Tillotson.

As presenting TexSAW sponsor, State Farm’s Antony Abraham was the featured keynote speaker.  Mr. Abraham has over 18 years of experience working in the fields of Networking, Network Security, and Cyber Defense. For the last 13 years of his career, he has been focused in the area of Cyber Security. During his talk titled, “Evolution of Cyber Threats and Defensive Approaches,” he spoke about the evolution of advanced targeted attacks, the pitfalls of yesterday’s defenses, and how enterprises are approaching these problems differently. In his presentation, he briefly discussed various frameworks that will improve cyber defense capabilities. His session also highlighted the importance of bringing in the perspective of an attacker to improve cyber defense by organizing opposing red and purple teams and by highlighting opportunities to utilize intelligence driven automation.

On the final day of TexSAW’16, attendees were organized into 24 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) mini-competition. The Jeopardy style contest, lasting over three hours, included several questions with varying difficulty levels for each of the students to work on. First and second place went to North American University, and third place went to Sam Houston State.

dsc_0021Dr. 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 provides a great opportunity for our Scholarship for Service (SFS) students to further study select topics in order to teach fundamental cyber security skills to the attendees,” noted Dr. Sarac. “It is gratifying to watch our SFS student leaders grow as a result of putting on this event and we really enjoy the experience of bringing other students here to participate and learn about cyber security.” Dr. Sarac continued, saying “We are grateful to our industry sponsors, State Farm and Raytheon, for making this event financially possible and are pleased that Texas college and university faculties encouraged their students to participate in this excellent learning activity.”

The event will once again take place again in November 2017 at the UT Dallas Computer Science Department.

Click here to see photos from the event.


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.

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