Research News

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UB awarded $2.39 million to train future cybersecurity experts

By CORY NEALON

Published September 5, 2018

headshot of Shambhu Upadhyaya
“Cybersecurity is more important now than ever. Government, industry, nonprofits — they’re all under constant threat.”
Shambhu Upadhyaya, professor
Department of Computer Science and Engineering

With every new security hack or data breach, the need for cybersecurity professionals grows.

To help meet this demand, UB has received a five-year, $2.39 million National Science Foundation grant to train the next generation of experts who will protect the United States from cyberattacks.

“Cybersecurity is more important now than ever. Government, industry, nonprofits — they’re all under constant threat. This impacts our economy, national security, politics and other aspects of society. That’s why we must continue to find and train cybersecurity professionals who can make a difference,” says the grant’s principal investigator, Shambhu Upadhyaya, professor of computer science and engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Upadhyaya is director of UB’s Center of Excellence in Information Systems, Assurance, Research and Education (CEISARE), which is one of roughly 70 federally designated centers that supply the U.S. with graduates trained to protect the nation from computer-based attacks.

The grant, awarded through NSF’s CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service program, is the third installment of funding since CEISARE began training cybersecurity professionals at UB in 2008. All told, the center has been awarded $5 million.

With the new funding, CEISARE will train 16-18 scholars over the next five years. The students will attend graduate school at no cost, receive a stipend and other benefits, and get an opportunity to do research in information assurance and cybersecurity. In exchange, they agree to work for the federal government (or other NSF-approved government agencies) for two years upon graduation.

So far, 30 scholars have graduated from UB through the CyberCorps program. They have gone on to work for the FBI, CIA, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency, the Federal Trade Commission, the Office of Inspector General and other agencies.

“Graduates of the CyberCorps program have a tremendous opportunity to put the highly valued skills they’ve obtained at UB into practice. The work they do helps ensure the United States remains a leader in the global economy, in national security and geopolitics,” says one of the grant’s co-principal investigators, G. Lawrence Sanders, professor of management science and systems in the School of Management. “These are exciting times at UB; collaboration between the academic disciplines is necessary to solve the pressing security problems.”

An interdisciplinary program, CEISARE includes UB faculty who teach and do research in math and law, in addition to business, and computer science and engineering.

Thomas Cusick, professor of mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Mark Bartholomew, professor of law in the School of Law, are co-principal investigators of the grant along with Sanders.

With the new funding, CEISARE will add programs for undergraduate students. The idea, Upadhyaya says, is to form a pipeline and recruit some of these students into the graduate program.

Additionally, CEISARE, in cooperation with the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Management, will continue to support GenCyber, an annual summer workshop for middle and high school students interested in cybersecurity. Since its inception, GenCyber has brought 150 students to UB to learn the fundamentals of cybersecurity.