Research News

UB awarded $1.6 million for students to study cybersecurity

By CORY NEALON

Published September 24, 2012

Shambhu Upadhyaya
“When students graduate with a specialty in cybersecurity, they can basically go wherever they want”
Shambhu Upadhyaya, Director, Center of Excellence in Information Systems, Assurance, Research and Education

UB has received a $1.6 million federal grant to teach students how to protect the United States from cyberattacks.

The grant, awarded by the National Science Foundation, will be used to bring up to 16 students into the university’s Center of Excellence in Information Systems, Assurance, Research and Education (CEISARE).

CEISARE is one of approximately 50 federally designated centers that supply the United States with graduates trained to protect the nation from computer-based attacks.

The grant will cover the cost of student stipends ($25,000), in-state graduate tuition and fees ($12,000) and books, travel expenses and health insurance ($3,000) for two years. At roughly $80,000 per student, this equals $1.3 million. The remainder of the grant, roughly $345,000, will cover the cost of running the center for five years.

In exchange for the financial support, students must agree to work for the federal government for two years upon graduation. CEISARE Director Shambhu Upadhyaya says students can choose from numerous agencies, including the National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense and the FBI.

“When students graduate with a specialty in cybersecurity, they can basically go wherever they want,” says Upadhyaya, professor of computer science and engineering.

An interdisciplinary program, CEISARE includes a varied group of UB faculty. For example, the grant’s co-investigators are Thomas Cusick, professor of mathematics, College of Arts and Sciences; H. Raghav Rao, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Management Science and Systems, School of Management; and Mark Bartholomew, associate professor, School of Law.

This diversity reflects the nuances of computer warfare, which Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said is the most serious economic and national security threat that the United States faces. She and other national security officials have warned that electric grids, transportation systems, banks and other industries reliant on computer systems are susceptible to cyberattacks.

Upadhyaya points to the 2009 hacking of sensitive information from the Pentagon’s $300 billion, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter project as an example.

The $1.6 million grant is the second multiyear award received by CEISARE. In 2008, it received $860,000 to educate 11 students, some of whom went on to work for the National Security Agency, the Federal Trade Commission and the Office of Inspector General.