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Crack the code | News from UdeL

Warning: Your password has been compromised. The pop-up message from the computer makes your head spin; is your email account safe? Your banking information? Your social security number?

With more and more daily lives online, cybersecurity has never been more critical. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s 2021 Data Breach Report, there were a record 1,862 data breaches last year, more than 80% of which revealed sensitive personal information. Meanwhile, the demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals is high and growing, with some estimates for currently unfilled jobs running into the millions.

A new program at the University of Louisville is tackling both of these issues head-on through innovative online programs and research. With $8.3 million from the National Security Agency’s (NSA) National Cybersecurity Academic Centers of Excellence, UofL and its multidisciplinary Digital Transformation Center (DTC) are developing the next generation of cybersecurity tools and professionals. cybersecurity to prevent future cyberattacks and protect your information.

New digital signature

Passwords are easily stolen – maybe you leave your computer unattended for a moment, someone peeks over your shoulder, or it’s exposed in a corporate data breach.

But what’s harder to steal is the way you move – the unique way you interact with your computer, the way you move your mouse and type, type, type on your keyboard. UofL researchers are using these unique movements, or haptics, to create a new method of security authentication using neural network models.

Adel Elmaghraby, co-principal investigator of the NSA project and professor at the Speed ​​School of Engineering, is leading a research collaboration with Alcorn State University, a historically black institution based in Mississippi, to conduct this pioneering research. The idea is to use these movements as a kind of digital signature which, together with your username and password, would provide an additional layer of cybersecurity.

“These moves are unique to you, and they’re very difficult to replicate,” Elmaghraby said. “By adding this layer to existing user verification, we can create a more secure cyber environment and always verify that you are you.”

Researchers have already published two papers showing the security benefits of improved keystroke dynamics. Although their research is now focused on desktops and laptops, they believe it’s possible to adapt the technology to tablets and smartphones, perhaps using your touch interactions as a haptic signature.

This work, Elmaghraby said, builds on the expertise UofL has gained in solving the most pressing and emerging cybersecurity challenges through research and innovation. For example, the UofL was recently selected by the US Department of Defense to work on research and education to strengthen the country’s cyber defenses. The UofL was the only school selected in Kentucky for both networks and one of the few to hold the Carnegie Research-1 competitive classification. These efforts, along with others supported by the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and Labor, create a center for cybersecurity research, innovation, and expertise at UofL.

“The work we do here at UofL is really at the forefront of cybersecurity research,” he said. “We anticipate and address these major issues that affect safety and security on a personal and even global level.”

Cyber ​​Workforce Building

UofL is also working to develop the next generation of cybersecurity professionals, through its NSA-backed Cybersecurity Personnel Certificate Program. The certificate draws on technology industry badges from Microsoft, IBM, and Google, as well as gamification and hands-on applied learning with use cases from industry partners to teach artificial intelligence, blockchain and other cutting-edge aspects of cybersecurity.

UdeL’s Center for Digital Transformation is leading the development of the online curriculum, working with a coalition that now includes nine other institutions, including those serving diverse populations. UofL is currently piloting the six-month instructor-led certificate program, but once completed it will be made available to other institutions free of charge.

“As technology continues to become an increasingly integral part of our daily lives, a strong cybersecurity industry and workforce are the most important protections we have to secure our financial and healthcare systems. “, said Sharon Kerrick, senior researcher at the NSA. scholarship, associate professor and deputy vice-president of the UdeL’s Center for Digital Transformation. “We can meet that need with this focused, accelerated program that prepares diverse students from all backgrounds for careers in cybersecurity.”

Students have already graduated from the program, many of whom are alumni returning to campus to pursue a degree in cybersecurity. This is the case of Kelly Kramer, who obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2012. He landed a job in law enforcement as a data analyst and legal assistant, but became increasingly interested in cybersecurity, where his interests in psychology, technology and protecting people have converged.

“This program has taught me a lot about securing not only these critical entities like hospitals, businesses, government agencies, but also about ourselves,” said Kramer, who now plans to return for his master’s degree in computer science. . “It’s a complex web of networks, nodes, servers, databases and more. We need people to understand each of them if we are to effectively secure them. I have no doubt that this program will open up opportunities for me and for others.

The same goes for JT Corcoran ’14, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer engineering and computer science. He joined the US Air Force and spent seven years on active duty, working in data analysis, cyber incident response, and network architecture planning.

When Corcoran’s service ended, he began to seek new career opportunities. His mother, also a UofL alum, sent him a link on the certificate program; he decided to register.

“Since I had prior training in cybersecurity, many topics were familiar to me, but I haven’t done some of these things in a while,” said Corcoran, who now works as a healthcare security analyst. health. “The certificate provided a good refresher on things like writing firewall rules, setting up network infrastructure, integrating cloud services, and performing investigations in a lab environment. , the inclusion of newer tech topics like blockchain and post-quantum cryptography has been fantastic in helping to think about new ways to innovate in the security space.

The UofL received an initial $6.3 million from the NSA to support research and development of the program in 2020. For the program, the UofL partnered with the University of Arkansas Little Rock, at the University of North Florida, Kentucky Community and Technical College System – Bluegrass Community and Technical College and Owensboro Community and Technical College, and a coalition liaison from City University of Seattle.

In 2022, UofL received an additional $2 million to add six more colleges and universities to the coalition: Kentucky State University and Simmons College, both historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs); The City College of New York, an institution serving Hispanics; Kennesaw State University, Hood College and Northwest Missouri State University. Each of the coalition schools is an NSA-designated National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber ​​Defense and brings interests, experience, and skills aligned with healthcare cybersecurity systems.

“It’s great that we’re getting to know our colleagues from neighboring universities — we’re working together and sharing ideas,” said Richard Maiti, assistant professor of computer science at Kentucky State University, who leads the project. for its establishment. “It’s a great opportunity, and it helps educate and educate everyone about cybersecurity – our students, our professionals, and community members.”

More information about the Cybersecurity Workforce Certificate Program, including how to apply, is available at louisville.edu/education/nscybersecurity.

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