$100,000 Grant Unlocks Plan for New Cybersecurity Lab at Fairfield

$100,000 Grant Unlocks Plan for New Cybersecurity Lab at Fairfield

Fairfield University’s School of Engineering (SOE) has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the George I. Alden Trust, to support the development of a cybersecurity laboratory on campus.

According to Adrian Rusu, PhD, chair of the SOE’s Computer Science and Engineering Department, the proposed facility is currently under development in the Bannow Science Center. The cybersecurity lab will be an integral teaching and research facility for the SOE, designed to enhance the complexity of coursework, challenge students to collaboratively solve sophisticated challenges, and ultimately equip graduates with the critical thinking and technological skills needed to professionally monitor, mitigate, and prevent online security threats.

Dr. Rusu worked with Director Kathleen Freis and Assistant Director Michael Prescott of the University's Foundation Relations department to identify the Alden Trust grant opportunity. He also collaborated with SOE adjunct faculty members Ray Angelo and Mark Ramsey, as well as Fairfield's Chief Information Officer Jon Carroll and Chief Information Security Officer Bill Reyor, to develop the cybersecurity lab's concept, equipment details, and pricing.

Curricular enhancements in conjunction with the new lab include the formal creation of a cybersecurity certificate program, a minor in the subject, and core engineering courses in cybersecurity, which is a required area for ABET accreditation of the Computer Science program. The lab will provide a dedicated facility for the data science graduate program and the professional certificate in software engineering with a concentration in cybersecurity.  The presence of this lab on campus will also enable Fairfield University to host SOE courses and demonstrations for industry leaders throughout the Northeast.

“The look and feel of the cybersecurity lab will be as if you are walking into a datacenter,” envisions Dr. Rusu. Students will work on individual higher-end desktop computer systems capable of executing at least 3 virtual machines simultaneously. These desktops will have the capability to host specific virtualized attacks or analyze virtual images locally.

Groups of four students will be connected to a single “group server,” on which the instructor will create or construct emulated environments for testing, demonstration, and teaching.  A “data visualization” station with a large display will visualize mirrored data from the student lab environments.

With every new headline about the latest online security breach – from phishing, to hacks, to ransomware attacks – the demand for qualified cybersecurity professionals grows. Last year, a Forbes magazine article reported that ISACA, a non-profit information security advocacy group, predicted there will be a global shortage of two million cybersecurity professionals by 2019.

Prospective engineering students and their parents have taken note. According to Dr. Rusu, “They often ask about cybersecurity programs when they visit campus, and thanks to the Alden Trust grant, we will soon have a state-of-the-art facility to show them.”

The George I. Alden Trust is an independent foundation based in Worcester, Mass., currently focusing on grants to private colleges and universities in Penn., N.Y., N.J. and the six New England states with full-time graduate and undergraduate enrollments between 1,000 and 5,000 students.

 

 

 

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Last modified: 03-23-18 01:40 AM

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