In 2004, to address the increasing attacks to the nation’s computers, communications systems and infrastructure, UT Dallas became proactive in cybersecurity education and research by establishing what has become the Cyber Security Research and Education Institute (CSI).
Since then, it has grown into one of the leading research organizations in cybersecurity in the world with about $25 million in research grants from a variety of federal agencies, as well as about $7 million in grants to create education programs in cybersecurity, including a recent $3.9 million award for the CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service program.
On Thursday, CSI leaders will mark the 10th anniversary with a lecture from Dr. Elisa Bertino of Purdue University, an open house featuring cybersecurity demonstrations, and a documentary screening of Codebreaker followed by a Q-and-A with Patrick Sammon, the creator and executive producer of the documentary about Alan Turing. The celebration coincides with the 4th Annual Texas Security Awareness (TexSAW) Student Workshop and Competition on Friday and Saturday.
“The Cyber Security Research and Education Institute is one of the most successful University groups and has conducted outstanding research,” said Dr. Gopal Gupta, Erik Jonsson Chair and head of the Department of Computer Science. “Their research has received wide national and international press coverage.”
The institute is led by executive director Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham, a professor of computer science in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science and a Louis Beecherl Jr. Distinguished Professor.
“Cybersecurity is more than resetting passwords after a data threat has been recognized,” said Thuraisingham, who joined UT Dallas after a distinguished industry career. “Hopefully these events will provide an opportunity for the UT Dallas community, and especially our students, to realize a greater breadth of what cybersecurity encompasses.”
Institute members consist of 10 core faculty in the Jonsson School and affiliated faculty members from the Jonsson School, the Naveen Jindal School of Management, the School of Economics, Political and Policy Sciences, the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, and the School of Arts and Humanities.
In addition to research in core areas such as data security and privacy, active malware defense, secure cloud computing and security analytics, research is being conducted in risk-based security, economic aspects of security and cognitive neuroscience aspects of security.
“Very few of the cybersecurity research universities in the United States have received such prestigious awards as the National Science Foundation’s early faculty award and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research’s young investigator award,” Thuraisingham said. “We now have some of the world-class researchers in active malware defense, data privacy and cryptography, among others.”
The institute originally earned designations as a National Security Agency/Department of Homeland Security Center for Excellence in Information Security Education in 2004 and an NSA/DHS Center for Excellence in Research in 2008. It was recertified in both areas last June.
“These certifications help us with our federal research and education grants,” Thuraisingham said. “They also help us with our collaborative research and education efforts with companies such as Raytheon Co., IBM, Honeywell International and Facebook.”
UT Dallas students interested in cybersecurity have the opportunity to pursue numerous programs, including a certificate established between the departments of Computer Science and Systems Engineering, and the Jindal School, or at the graduate level, with a degree in computer science with a cybersecurity concentration. Students in these programs have exposure to cybersecurity activities in government and commercial labs, including field trips to a North Texas FBI lab.
“To date, we have graduated about 50 PhD students in cybersecurity who have obtained not only faculty positions in national research universities, but also have joined companies that include the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, Google, Amazon, Raytheon Co. and Microsoft Corp.,” Thuraisingham said.
CSI faculty members have published papers in every top-tier cybersecurity and data analytics conference sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Association for Computing Machinery.
“To be considered a major player in cybersecurity, it is vital to publish in top-tier conferences,” Thuraisingham said. “These conferences are highly selective with acceptance rates of around 10 to 15 percent.”
CSI faculty members also host numerous international conferences and events, such as last year’s Cybersecurity Framework Workshop, sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which brought more than 500 government, business and academic leaders to UT Dallas in response to an executive order issued by President Barack Obama to develop strategy that could be used by critical infrastructure groups to reduce the risk of cyberattacks. Another was the recent NSF Workshop in Big Data Security and Privacy.
Thuraisingham said contributing to National Privacy Research Strategy is critical to the institute’s next 10 years.
“Even though our institute is relatively young, we have influenced key national programs at their inception, and we will continue that tradition into the future,” she said.
CSI 10th Anniversary Celebration
Thursday, Oct. 30
2 p.m.: Distinguished Lecture by Dr. Elisa Bertino of Purdue University in TI Auditorium.
3:30 p.m.–6:30 p.m.: Open house featuring hands-on cybersecurity demonstrations in the lobby of the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building.
6:30 p.m.: Screening of Codebreaker, a documentary about the life of Alan Turing — a mathematician credited as a father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence — followed by a Q-and-A with Patrick Sammon, the film’s creator and executive producer in the auditorium of Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building.
All events are free and open to the public.