New Colorado law allocates $1.2 million to bolster CSU cybersecurity education

computer data

A new Colorado law intended to strengthen data privacy measures for both businesses and government includes funding for Colorado State University to enhance its cybersecurity education initiatives.

A $1.2 million appropriation in the new law, titled “Cyber Coding Cryptology for State Records,” will go to CSU’s efforts to train students and the workforce in modern cybersecurity practices and procedures. The bill includes more than $5 million in such appropriations to several Colorado institutions of higher education.

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the law on May 30, following a series of national and state data breaches that compromised financial and personal information. Among them was a breach of 2,000 computers at the Colorado Department of Transportation earlier this year.

Several areas of focus

Still in early stages, CSU’s plan involves several areas of focus, according to Provost Rick Miranda.

CSU’s Systems Engineering program will receive funding to expand its outreach to the state and the cybersecurity-focused aspects of its curriculum. “This bill is really a call to action for CSU to help the state improve the security of public records, and to meet the systems and cybersecurity needs of the public and private sectors across Colorado,” said Ron Sega, director of CSU Systems Engineering.

Also, the College of Natural Sciences’ Department of Computer Science and the College of Business’ Computer Information Systems program will collaborate in a cybersecurity center, and will provide education for both on- and off-campus students around issues of cybersecurity and data encryption. The state law specifically requests strengthening subject areas such as blockchain technology; a computer science course on blockchain was already in development, and the new funding will accelerate those efforts. In addition, Computer Information Systems will launch a course on cybersecurity data analytics that addresses how to analyze encrypted and blockchain data.

“We have been carefully establishing a reputation in the field for outstanding work in cybersecurity, especially as it relates to the automotive industry, but also in other areas,” said Craig Partridge, chair of the Department of Computer Science. “This is a chance to build on that research expertise to create a broader set of educational offerings from which our students, employees, and citizens of Colorado can benefit.”

The new influx of funds should also help CSU leverage existing cybersecurity research. One ongoing project is the Department of Homeland Security-funded “Netbrane,” aimed at detecting and mitigating distributed denial of service attacks.

The university will also create internships organized by Academic Computing and Network Services, under the leadership of Vice President for Information Technology Patrick Burns. Student security interns would be trained to protect the university’s data while learning best practices in a complex university system.

Finally, some of the allocated funding will go to activities already under way at CSU-Pueblo’s cybersecurity center.

“We bring to the table a willingness to use the assets of our entire system, and an interdisciplinary approach,” Miranda said. “As the land-grant institution of Colorado, it is part of our DNA to help the state when the state sees research and educational needs.”