Despite the occasional budget cuts plaguing the University of New Orleans, the university’s cybersecurity program is flourishing, having merited local and national attention in recent months.
“We have a center here that is the Greater New Orleans Center for Information Assurance,” said Irfan Ahmed, assistant professor of computer science. Ahmed has been at the university for five years, but he recently became appointed associate director of the center in January. “The center is mostly responsible for all of the cybersecurity-related activity at UNO.”
Tucked away on the third floor of the mathematics building on campus, the center has caught the attention of the National Security Agency, garnering three cybersecurity grants totaling $468,000 from the intelligence organization. These grants will support cybersecurity education by providing in-house training and teaching tools for prospective college students and computer science instructors.
Cybersecurity training, also known as information-assurance training, is ever-evolving—with the department most recently offering a digital forensics workshop for undergraduate computer science students at UNO.
“We have a research grant that’s related to cybersecurity education. This workshop is a part of that grant. In this three-hour workshop, we want to introduce to students about how the cybercrimes can be investigated.”
The digital forensics workshop will also be offering a newer approach to the learning process, with a method of learning known as peer instruction being thrown into the mix.
Ahmed explained that the idea behind peer instruction is to present denser material by placing much of the focus on small groups of students arriving at their own conclusions in class, as opposed to the traditional method of lecturing on material. It is a classroom technique that has gained considerable popularity in other branches of academia, especially in STEM concentrations such as physics, which may not be the most easily accessible at the introductory level. He said this method bodes well for students wishing to tackle a hefty concentration in cybersecurity.
“Cybersecurity itself is a difficult discipline to teach, so finding more innovative or new methods of teaching [the material] effectively is one of the aspects of the center.”
Despite the noted difficulty it takes to study cybersecurity, Ahmed added the concentration is more relevant than ever and can be rewarding.
“If you think about how we are getting more dependent on computers and the infrastructure that connects them, then its security is getting more and more vulnerable. Just imagine if you lose access to the internet.”
Ahmed said that he believes that is what information assurance boils down to—ensuring the web and its users are secure from malicious content in a technology-dependent world.
For more information on the GNOCIA and its programs, consult the GNOCIA homepage at http://gnocia.cs.uno.edu/.