“Businesses should be aware that they are targets from cyber threats ranging from cyber crime (stealing their wealth), to stealing their intellectual property, to compromising the privacy of their employees and their customers.”
Victor Fay-Wolfe is the director of the University of Rhode Island Digital Forensics and Cyber Security Center, which he founded in 2004. Fay-Wolfe has been a professor of computer science at URI for the last 21 years.
Fay-Wolfe talked to Providence Business News about the URI program, its recent certification from the National Security Agency and the evolution of the cybersecurity industry.
PBN: Can you tell me a bit about URI's Digital Forensics and Cyber Security program?
FAY-WOLFE: URI's Digital Forensics and Cyber Security program has several parts to it, detailed on our website dfcsc.uri.edu. We provide education with undergraduate and graduate degrees in both Digital Forensics and in Cyber Security. We provide training to State and corporate professional staff who are responsible at some level for cyber security. We do government-funded research in new cyber security technologies. We perform service where our faculty, staff, and students, perform cyber security and forensics activities to support law enforcement and government organizations. One of URI's strengths is the combination of these "prongs" in our Cyber Security and Digital Forensics program - a combination we believe that no other university can match.
PBN What sort of classes/workshops do students take part in to prepare them for the industry?
FAY-WOLFE: In Digital Forensics, the students take courses on how to seize and analyze computers, cell phones, and entire computer networks. These courses are based on law enforcement practices and include both technical and legal concepts. In Cyber Security students take courses in Information Assurance policies and technology, how to defend a network and data center, and how to hackers attack a network, among other topics.
PBN Your center recently received certification from the National Security Agency validating its cybersecurity training programs. Can you tell me what that means?
FAY-WOLFE: Our designation as a National Security Agency/Dept of Homeland Security Center For Academic Excellence in Education is the premier designation that universities seek to validate their academic program in Cyber Security. Our courses and curriculum underwent a detailed review by the NSA as did our faculty credentials and institution support. This designation will help us in recruiting the best students and will open up to URI many government grant programs in cyber security.
PBN In your opinion, how has the focus on cybersecurity changed in the past decade?
FAY-WOLFE: Unquestionably. The threat has intensified as more and more of our nation's economy, defense, and general personal welfare moves to being online. The threat has been around for the past decade, but public awareness is just now starting to catch up. This has increased the focus by law enforcement, homeland security, and in turn from universities. When we started a Digital Forensics program 10 years ago, there were just a handful of these academic programs in the country and very little government-funded research. Now hundreds of schools have programs in it and there are many government grant programs.
PBN What is the biggest thing businesses should pay attention to regarding cybersecurity?
FAY-WOLFE: Businesses should be aware that they are targets from cyber threats ranging from cyber crime (stealing their wealth), to stealing their intellectual property, to compromising the privacy of their employees and their customers. Many businesses think that because they are “small game” that they are safe. However, attackers realize that small businesses are often the weakest in terms of cyber security and the attackers go for the low hanging fruit. Remember, attackers aren’t just nation-states and organized crime, they can be a teenager in their basement. Law enforcement is doing their best to keep up with the threat, but much of being cyber secure relies on the people and organization.