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UW Could Become Cyber Security Hub

January 20, 2016

To battle one of the most dangerous issues facing the nation today, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead has requested state funding to develop a program at the University of Wyoming to become a center of excellence in cyber defense.

Corporations such as Home Depot, eBay, Sony, Target and even the United States government have been compromised through data breaches caused by hackers. Without trained individuals who continually learn and hone dynamic methods, Wyoming’s infrastructure, agencies, businesses and citizens are at risk. The cost of even a basic attack can be thousands of dollars, and any ensuing data losses or damages to infrastructure can cost millions and damage business reputations.

According to the Wyoming Cybersecurity Education Initiative, proposed curriculum in the College of Engineering and Applied Science’s Department of Computer Science would educate students to defend against such attacks and “provide meaningful and sustainable impact to Wyoming's technology sector through cybersecurity and information assurance higher-education programs.”

Gov. Mead drafted a letter to the state legislature supporting an initiative through the Wyoming Department of Enterprise Technology Services (ETS) for UW to obtain certification as a National Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) in information assurance and cyber defense. The certification is administered by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency (NSA).

“This certification would provide opportunities for Wyoming citizens and supply uniquely skilled workers,” Gov. Mead wrote. “Additional economic development opportunities could arise.”

Richard Imbrogno of the ETS outlined the program in a business case proposal.

“Today’s cyber threat environment is dangerous and continuously changing,” Imbrogno writes. “Criminal hackers are continually learning new ways to attack critical systems and the tools used are evolving very rapidly. Many of these tools are available and easily accessible on the Internet, free of charge, with explanations on how to attack a target and exploit its vulnerabilities. Without formally trained and appropriately credentialed individuals who continually learn and hone new anti-attack and dynamic methodologies, Wyoming’s infrastructure, agencies, businesses and citizens are at risk and are at a major disadvantage.”

Department of Computer Science head Jim Caldwell met with the head of the program at the NSA at the Global Tech Summit in Jackson in September. The program will need two faculty members with expertise in cyber-security to get the certification, with a research certification to be established down the road. 

The business plan includes a two-year budget that will be included in the governor's budget. Some of the funds are to support a new faculty member at Laramie County Community College and a person who will help coordinate statewide efforts to market the program to students, and to transfer the LCCC program to other community colleges.

“We have an excellent opportunity to promote and build sustainable collaboration among ETS, the University of Wyoming and Wyoming community colleges,” Imbrogno says. “This effort will have a lasting and positive impact on Wyoming’s technology workforce.”

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