The University of Maryland is launching a new cyber security initiative that aims to stimulate public-private partnerships and address U.S. vulnerabilities, including those facing industry. The idea is to help "connect the dots" in the region's burgeoning federal and private cyber sector.
The focal point of the initiative, the new Maryland Cybersecurity Center (MC2), will adopt a holistic approach to cyber security education, research and technology development, stressing comprehensive, interdisciplinary solutions.
MC2 will bring together experts from engineering and computer science with colleagues from across campus in fields such as information sciences, business, public policy, social sciences and economics to develop new educational and research programs. It will also draw on the university's technology commercialization resources.
"The nation's information systems have outgrown our ability to assure their security, and no one institution or sector can undertake a task of this magnitude alone," says Nariman Farvardin, interim president of the University of Maryland, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. "As one of the nation's top research universities, and with our strategic location, we are perfectly positioned to provide the education, expertise and collaboration that will help advance national and regional cyber security efforts."
The university's proximity to the nation's capital and close interactions with key federal agencies make College Park a unique place for cyber security education, research and technology development. Maryland leads the nation in information technology jobs, while more than half of the nation's Internet traffic passes through the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
The MC2 initiative will build on growing national and state commitments to address critical vulnerabilities of U.S. information systems.
"Cyber security is one of the biggest threats facing our nation, but also one of the greatest opportunities for Maryland universities, businesses and federal labs to work collectively and strengthen our national defense and economic security," says Gov. Martin O'Malley, whose CyberMaryland plan envisions the state as the "epicenter" of work in the field. "This bold initiative will complement the work of CyberMaryland, and I look to it as a national model for developing a response to the threat of cyber disruptions."
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-MD, chairwoman of the U.S. Senate's Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee and a member of the Cyber Security Task Force agreed.
"The University of Maryland initiative is so important in our war against cyber terrorists, cyber thugs and cyber thieves," Sen. Mikulski says. "Maryland is the global epicenter for cyber security, and the University of Maryland will play a key role in training the cyber warriors of tomorrow. The center will bring new economy jobs to Maryland and help keep America safe."
MC2 will draw on extensive cyber security research already underway at the university, including wireless and network security, cryptography, secure programming, mechanisms for ensuring citizens' privacy in social networks, cyber supply chain research, attacker behavioral analysis, cyber security policy and economics, multimedia forensics, among other areas.
The research will have applications in the commercial world, as well as in national security. The center's work will have special relevance for health care IT, where privacy is vital; as well as the utility, telecommunications and banking sectors, which are particularly vulnerable to electronic disruptions. MC2 researchers also will focus on helping manufacturers assure the integrity of software and hardware components they buy from suppliers
University of Maryland students will participate in MC2 research, which will help prepare them for employment in the field. Additional graduate and undergraduate educational programs that emphasize unique, hands-on experience in cyber security systems will augment current courses.
"While there's a shortage of qualified workers in a rapidly growing field like this, the most acute need is for graduates with advanced degrees and very high skill sets," Farvardin says. "We're particularly well equipped to help meet this need."
Initially, MC2 will be led jointly by Chairman of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Patrick O'Shea and Chairman of the Department of Computer Science Larry Davis. A national search is underway to hire a permanent director.
The university is beginning to line up private sector research partners to work with the center, including Lockheed Martin and Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC).
"The University of Maryland is a highly valued academic partner in this critical area of cyber security innovation and research," says Ted Campbell, Lockheed Martin vice president of advanced concepts. "MC2 will play an important role in the national cyber effort, which will benefit greatly from industry, academia and government collaboration."
"With this new center, we and the university will enjoy a new platform for cyber innovation," adds Larry Cox, SAIC senior vice president and business unit general manager. "By linking our efforts, we can strategically support key initiatives of importance—not only to our organizations, but to the nation. Areas such as cyber supply chain research, accredited testing and evaluation, cloud computing security, and cyber defense education and training."
Additionally, MC2 will work with small businesses, drawing on the university's extensive programs for technology development and commercialization, including the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute and the Office of Technology Commercialization, to help bring new technologies to the marketplace and bring new economic growth to the region.
The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development has also pledged its cooperation. "This initiative adds a great cyber asset to the state," says Adam Suri, director of cybersecurity and the Office of Innovative Technologies for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. "Public-private-academic partnerships will further CyberMaryland, and we look forward to working closely with university on this project."
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