University of Cincinnati awarded CAE Designation


Students in the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Systems (EECS) are eager to continue the crusade against cybercrime as the National Security Agency (NSA) and US CYBERCOMMAND have designated the University of Cincinnati (UC) as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations for 2014 – 2019.

The certification was awarded in recognition of significant contributions supporting the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE): Building a Digital Nation, by “promoting deeply technical, interdisciplinary higher education programs that will produce an exceptional cadre of cybersecurity professionals with expertise in various disciplines related to specialized intelligence, military and lay enforcement cyber operations, and ultimately increasing the security posture of our Nation.”

The NSA granted UC the honor after three campus visits which highlighted a high level of cooperation and enthusiasm among faculty in computer science, computer engineering, political science and information technology along with a team of adjunct faculty from Northrop Grumman and General Electric Aviation who teach courses critical to the success of the cyber operation program.

Increasing reliance on complex computing systems (especially large-scale distributed systems and databases) and escalating sophistication of attackers requires highly-trained cyber operations professionals at all levels. For instance, cyber-ops specialists working at an operational level are trained to identify procedural vulnerabilities and suggest changes to remove them. Cyber-ops specialists working at the system administration level detect intrusions and attacks while preventing/limiting damage that they may incur. Operations systems-level cyber-ops specialists analyze code to detect anomalies & malware and also develop strategies that prevent/limit damage, while hardware-level cyber-ops specialists determine whether an off-shore implementation of a design contains any unexpected functionality.

The University of Cincinnati’s Cyber Operations Program provides the security and safety principles which are applicable to all operational and system levels and the foundations for building specific secure systems. Specialized components of cyber operations are also offered. Graduate students completing the program receive a certificate of proficiency in Cyber Operations and a Master of Science in Computer Science or Computer Engineering, depending on focus. Completion is also noted on their transcripts. Undergraduates may also receive this certificate through the ACCEND™ (Accelerated Engineering Degree) program.

Because of the NSA certification, many new opportunities are surfacing for the university. UC is eligible for government grants to further aid cyber security research. Collaborations are expanding between EECS and the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT). Deji Badiru, PhD and Department Head of AFIT Systems Engineering, reflects, “We are always delighted to collaborate across institutional boundaries. Research is what binds [UC and AFIT] locally and we should exploit all opportunities. The AFIT-UC Cyber collaboration is a promising new venture.”

CISSE 2015 – The Colloquium for Information Systems Security Education

The Colliquium

The Colloquium recognized that the protection of information and infrastructure used to create, store, process, and communicate information, is vital to the continuity and security of business. The Colloquium’s goal is the ongoing effort to define current and emerging requirements for information assurance education and cyber operations, as well as to influence and encourage the development and expansion of curricula.

Once annually, the Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Security meet to discuss innovations in the technology and how to better prepare students for their careers ahead. In June 2015, faculty from EECS, Political Science, Information Technology, and Criminal Justice attended CISSE. Numerous student posters were on display during the three day event, which is broken into three sections: Government, Education, and Industry. Many connections and possible collaborations were made. We look forward to attending the 20th anniversary of the CISSE conference in Philadelphia next year.

BSides–July 25, 2015

BSides is a community-driven framework for building events for and by information security community members.  Their goal is to expand the spectrum of conversation beyond the traditional confines of space and time.  It creates opportunities for individuals to both present and participate in an intimate atmosphere that encourages collaboration.  It is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from participants.

On July 25, 2015, BSides Cincinnati was held at the Cincinnati Museum Center.  The sold-out event welcomed Harlan Carvey of Dell SecureWorks as the keynote speaker.  Other speakers included representatives from Ashland Inc., RSA, GE Aviation, CBTS, and FireEye.  The 2015 event was presented by Justin Hall, Nate Hausrath, Tony Hudson, Chris Nyhuis, Josh Ohmer, Liam Randall, and Ryan Hamrick and Coleman Kane, our CAE-CO’s first CSE PhD student.


NSA Cyber Operations Engagement

Jason Armstrong

On September 11, 2015, Jason Armstrong, a U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) Laboratory of Telecommunication Science representative led a hands-on cyber operations and security engagement session with Madeira High School and Purcell Marian High School students.

The presentation took place at the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) Engineering Research Center (ERC) and Tangeman University Center (TUC) as Armstrong demonstrated how to decrypt a WWII German Enigma enciphering system. German Armed Forces used these encryption machines to send “secure” military messages, which American military intelligence successfully broke. Students had the opportunity to “de-code” an Enigma device on-stage, or from their seats using a cloud-based decryption application.

According to the White House Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, “President Obama has identified cybersecurity as one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation, but one that we as a government or as a country are not adequately prepared to counter.” 1

As a result, President Obama created the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE). An extension of NICE is the NSA Centers of Excellence in Cyber Operations (CAE-CO) program which is tasked to support the government’s effort to better protect cyberspace. The University of Cincinnati (UC) has been designated as one of 14 nationwide CAE-CO’s by the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command. This teaching opportunity is a part of UC’s National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program.

Jason Armstrong teaches

Dr. Franco expresses his deep gratitude for the great opportunity Greater Cincinnati high school students gained by attending an NSA-sponsored event at CEAS, “As a National Center for Excellence in Cyber Operations, young students experienced first-hand the great demand our country has to defend and secure U.S. cyberspace.”

In addition to this added value, the students who attend NSA engagement will directly support NICE initiatives, which state, “In order to effectively ensure our continued technical advantage and future cybersecurity, we must develop a technologically-skilled and cyber-savvy workforce and an effective pipeline of future employees.”2