Engineering professors receive a National Center of Academic Excellence- Cybersecurity grant for the research and development of a platform for the cybersecurity workforce

Friday, December 2, 2022 - 16:03

DENTON (UNT), Texas – Cybersecurity researchers at the University of North Texas have been awarded $500K for the first two years and an estimated $250K increment for the third year from the National Centers of Academic Excellence- Cybersecurity (NCAE-C) housed in the National Security Agency.

This project is part of the NCAE-C’s Careers Preparation National Center (CPNC) led by Sharon Hamilton of Norwich University. The principal investigators for this project from UNT include Ram Dantu, professor of computer science and engineering in the College of Engineering and director of UNT’s Center for Information and Cyber Security, and Mark Thompson, clinical assistant professor of computer science and engineering. The funding will support the research and development of a platform that uses natural language processing and artificial intelligence techniques to collect and compile cybersecurity-related data.

This platform aims to help understand why there are 750,000 unfilled job openings in the cybersecurity field. By using the platform to collect and compile data related to cybersecurity and the intent of hiring managers for job postings. Hence the hiring managers can more easily connect with talented students and graduates. The platform also can be used to ensure college curriculum aligns with job postings to generate a workforce that can meet the needs of the job market, especially in cybersecurity.

There are many practical applications for the platform as well. Cybersecurity experts can use it to better understand the intent behind emails, social media posts and blog posts to identify any threats.

“There are other governments spying on us all the time,” Dantu said. “You see lots of news about ransomware attacks and cyber attacks, and some of these are done by foreign agencies. We need a large workforce to combat this, and we don’t have the workforce.”

This marks a total of $2.5 million in grants in only two years for Dantu. He is working on several NCAE-C/NSA-funded projects. One with computer science and engineering associate professors Kirill Morozov and Sanjukta Bhowmick will create a framework for securely and anonymously sharing cell phone data to help identify COVID-19 super-spreader events. The work helps locate active spreaders and communities through anonymous contact networks built through cell phone data.

Other projects with computer science and engineering senior lecturer Mark Thompson focus on increasing the number and quality of cybersecurity professionals. They are researching and developing competency tools for work-skill-readiness for cybersecurity, as well as mentoring opportunities for doctoral students and industry professionals to produce highly qualified faculty. The goal is to inspire and engage the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

“The government is looking at the advancement of hacks and threats facing future technologies,” Dantu said. “We’re working on how to detect and mitigate these next-generation threats in our lab. Our lab considers how we want to use the technology and research for the benefit of our communities and our citizens.”

About the Network Security Lab

UNT’s Network Security Lab, led by Dantu within the Center for Information and Cyber Security, has earned back-to-back federal research grants from the NCAE-C/NSA and the National Science Foundation for the last 20 years supporting Ph.D. students and their faculty. The lab consistently originates award-winning research papers, including the recent best research paper of the decade (2010-2020) award from IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems and the best research paper award from the International Conferences on Blockchain and Applications.

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