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Securing Critical Infrastructure from Cyber Attacks

Engineering team to lead $2.1 million research efforts

The College of Engineering’s dedication to cybersecurity issues isn’t limited to training future engineers. A new grant will help the college build the next layer in our cyber defense.

Dean Larry Stauffer is leading a team of faculty on a project that will create innovative products for safeguarding Cyber Physical Control Systems, or CPCS — those critical infrastructure systems like the transportation and power grid — that rely on the internet.

The team received a $2.1 million Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) grant to pursue education and research into security management of CPCS.

The team has identified four key components of its project and ways UI can be a leader in addressing security issues in the nation’s cyber infrastructure:

  1. Add key faculty and enhance laboratories at UI in order to deliver improved education and R&D products in CPCS, which will accelerate economic development; 
  2. Strengthen collaboration with Idaho industry and other Idaho universities with collaborative cybersecurity education, research and deployment activities; 
  3. Foster technology transfer and commercialization through technology development and incubation; and 
  4. Strengthen and expand the workforce by delivering cybersecurity expertise to Idaho industry and improve the talent pipeline with computer science and engineering graduates.

UI already has a number of partnerships and programs in place to meet these goals, including the Control Systems Cyber Innovation Center at the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, which receives support from UI computer science professor Michael Haney, who works out of UI’s Center for Advanced Energy Studies. Haney will be instrumental in building a state-of-the-art, hands-on computing classroom laboratory at UI Idaho Falls, where cyber physical systems "attack and defend" techniques will be taught to students across the state. 

The Cybersecurity Training and Operations Center (CTOC) in Coeur d'Alene offers statewide training courses and seminars for businesses, as well as a cybersecurity certification program (see next page).

As the final piece to this statewide cybersecurity framework, the IGEM CPCS program will create a Resilience Research Incubation Center at the Moscow campus, with a focus on research, development, deployment and demonstration in order to make significant improvements in security management of cyber physical control systems.



Larry Stauffer
Larry Stauffer, Dean, College of Engineering

“Key to the success of our CPCS program is early involvement with industry and expanding our cybersecurity talent pool,” said Rick Sheldon, chair of the UI Computer Science Department. “Our industry partners will help us to develop better methods of assessment and the vetting of promising technologies. Together we expect to develop an ideal CPCS profile, localized for the state that graduates professionals with the essential skills necessary to address existing and potential threats to CPCS.”

Sheldon, who formerly served at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee as a senior research scientist on the Cyber Warfare Research Team, is working closely with Stauffer and Charles Buck, UI's associate vice president and executive officer of UI Coeur d’Alene, on complementary cybersecurity goals to fulfill the goal of providing a four-year computer science degree program and training in North Idaho. Sheldon, Stauffer and Buck are meeting with North Idaho industry leaders to collaboratively develop academic programs that satisfy industry needs and, in turn, will have a positive economic impact on the region and state.

“Our approach toward leadership in cybersecurity is multi-fold,” Stauffer said. “We understand securing cyberspace is a Grand Challenge. With support from the IGEM grant, we will address the problem by hiring cybersecurity expertise, enhancing our labs, working with other universities and industry, fostering technology transfer and ultimately expanding the cybersecurity workforce to face the challenge.”

Article by Rob Patton, College of Engineering

Rick Sheldon
Rick Sheldon, Department Chair, Computer Science

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University Communications and Marketing

Phone: 208-885-6291

Fax: 208-885-5841

Email: uinews@uidaho.edu

Web: Communications and Marketing

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