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Marshall, WVSU receive funds to establish Cyber Security Center for Critical Infrastructure

Marshall University, in partnership with West Virginia State University, has received $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education to help establish a Cyber Security Center for Critical Infrastructure at each university.

The funds are granted to help build capacity at Marshall and West Virginia State University to address needed research into the cyber security issues associated with critical infrastructure in the state. They also will help the universities to pilot training programs for critical infrastructure operators in cybersecurity for their particular industries.

Marshall and West Virginia State can use the grant funding to develop laboratory facilities at both institutions and a virtual laboratory across both institutions, and to provide technical short courses for operators in the critical infrastructure industries, where the operators can learn from those laboratories how to defend the critical infrastructure equipment from cyber attacks.

Dr. Paulus Wahjudi, professor and chair of Marshall’s Department of Computer Sciences and Electrical Engineering, will serve as the site director at Marshall. The Principal Investigator (PI) for the grant proposal is Dr. David Dampier, dean of Marshall’s College of Engineering and Computer Sciences and director of Marshall’s Institute for Cyber Security.

“Cyberattacks on critical infrastructures can have a significant impact to vital services,” Wahjudi said. “Securing these systems requires understanding how internet-connected control systems work, how they are configured, and how they are accessed. We are excited to join with WVSU in providing the capability to train existing and future cyber security professionals to be able to better defend critical infrastructure.”

The cyber security of the state’s and nation’s critical infrastructure is of paramount importance,” said John Sammons, associate director of Marshall’s Institute for Cyber Security.

“Our day-to-day lives, business, and government rely on heavily these services,” Sammons said. “In addition, cyber attacks on these systems could produce catastrophic consequences in the real world.  This could result not only in significant property damage but even the loss of life. Security of these systems will be a significant focus of the MU Institute for Cyber Security.”

Among those involved with the project from WVSU are Dr. Naveed Zaman, dean of WVSU’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, who will serve as administrative lead; Dr. Ali Alsinayyid and Dr. Heng Wu, assistant professors of computer science who will be faculty researchers; and Dr. Michael Anderson, professor of mathematics, who will provide technical support.

“I am thrilled about this partnership,” Zaman said. “This grant enhances cybersecurity research capacity at WVSU, complements our cybersecurity education by providing experiential learning opportunities to our graduate and undergraduate students, strengthens West Virginia’s critical cyber infrastructures, and establishes a strategic partnership between WVSU and MU. I look forward to working with Dean Dampier and the MU team to make it a success for both institutions and the state of West Virginia.”

WVSU faculty members are “excited to partner with the faculty at Marshall University to strengthen the research programs and create opportunities for students at both institutions,” said Dr. Xiaohong Zhang, chair of WVSU’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. “We expect this project to lay a foundation for a long-lasting partnership between the two departments.”