NSA, NSF grants help UNT fight security breaches, improve cybersecurity workforce

Thursday, November 2, 2017 - 17:25
Dan J. Kim, professor of Information Technology and Decision Sciences
Dan J. Kim, professor of Information Technology and Decision Sciences

DENTON (UNT), Texas — Grants totaling more than $1.4 million from the National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation are adding to the University of North Texas’ efforts to improve cybersecurity education – and ultimately fight cybercrime – in the U.S.

The National Security Agency recently awarded a nearly $250,000 grant to UNT to create a cybersecurity career roadmap to help government entities, businesses and professional organizations connect current and future cybersecurity professionals with the trainings they need for their careers.

The grant coincides with ongoing research for the National Science Foundation Scholarship for Service  program, which awarded $1.19 million to UNT faculty – including Dan J. Kim, a professor of Information Technology and Decision Sciences – and doctoral researchers to study security threats, data breaches and other crimes. The program funds the doctoral students’ educations, and those students agree to work for a federal, state, local, or tribal government organization in a position related to cybersecurity following graduation. Media: Download a photo of Kim online.

The stakes are high. Earlier this year, Equifax disclosed a massive breach that exposed names, Social Security numbers and other sensitive data for an estimated 143 million Americans. Hacks like that will cost more than $7 million this year in the U.S. alone, according to estimates. And globally, cybercrime hit the economy with a $450 billion price tag last year. Certifications offer IT workers a chance to keep up.

But there is a problem with these trainings, said Kim.

 “The number and varieties of cybersecurity-related certifications are overwhelming,” said Kim, whose research falls under the Cybersecurity National Action Plan, a long-term federal effort to enhance cybersecurity awareness and protections. “This causes confusion among laypersons, IT professionals seeking to strengthen their technical qualifications and employers concerned what certifications their employees should be equipped with.”

That’s where the career roadmap would come into play: it would help cybersecurity professionals and employers determine which trainings and certifications would best protect their organizations from the next cyberattack. 

Additional faculty involved in the NSF grant are Ram Dantu, a professor of Computer Science and Engineering and principal investigator for the NSF grant, and Suliman Hawamdeh, chair of the Department of Information Science.

UNT News Service
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