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University of Wyoming Cybersecurity Center Ramps Up

LARAMIE, WY – Efforts to improve cybersecurity throughout Wyoming have picked up steam over the past few months, thanks to the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Wyoming (UW).

UW’s Cybersecurity Education and Research (CEDAR) center was brought online in summer 2017. It provides centralized resources and communication to university, government, community, and industry partners in all aspects relating to cybersecurity. CEDAR's primary objective is the development and support of cybersecurity education, research and outreach at UW, with specific emphasis on undergraduate education and research.

Mike Borowczak was hired in January 2017 as the director of CEDAR and as a professor of practice in computer science. He has been busy since coming aboard, speaking at several conferences, publishing papers and increasing department outreach.

A popular initiative from the CEDAR center has been a series of “Lunch and Learn” presentations with professionals from the field. One included UW alumna Caitlin Long, CEO of Symbiont, who discussed Blockchain and the birth of Bitcoin.

CEDAR’s goal is to provide high-quality education, materials and support to advance Wyoming’s cybersecurity capabilities; thus, Borowczak has geared his curriculum to serving those goals. Topics covered in the department include cutting-edge trends in cybersecurity in the computing domain, data mining and the upcoming “Rock the Blockchain Vote,” a project-based systems course to develop a voting mechanism using blockchain. The class will send 15 students to the annual Developers Week Conference in San Francisco in February 2018.

A computer science student group, the Defense Against the Dark Arts, sent eight students to Defcon 2017, one of the world’s largest hacker conventions. CEDAR also has formed partnerships with Made Safe in Wyoming and the Wyoming Blockchain Coalition.

CEDAR’s 18-month objectives include graduating at least five computer science majors with a concentration in cybersecurity; establishing a cutting-edge virtualized cybersecurity lab; and achieving a National Security Agency/Department of Homeland Security Center of Academic Excellence designation.

“I am quite pleased with the progress we’re making,” Borowczak says. “Currently, we have three graduate students, and another who will start in January, who are working in the lab. We used CEDAR capabilities in the ‘Introduction to Computer Science’ class for research presentations, so freshmen and sophomore students became familiar with something that gets used in cybersecurity every day.

“That’s the reach of CEDAR. It goes beyond abstract idea of just a research center, and the whole idea is to incorporate it into the curriculum.”

Borowczak has applied for national grants in the hope of hosting free cybersecurity summer camps for middle and high school teachers across the state, and increase engagement between undergraduate students and current UW faculty to promote active learning in classrooms.

“The overall goal of what we’re doing is to increase the pipeline of students and teachers who are familiar with computer science,” he says. “Exposure to the field for elementary and junior high students and teachers can help influence choices down the road.

“I’m happy with where we’re at. We’ve gotten support from everywhere at the university, in the college and in the department, because this center wouldn’t exist without it.”

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