A new cybersecurity center on the Texas A&M University-Central Texas campus in Killeen will allow researchers, faculty members and students to participate in a global effort to block cyberattacks. University officials celebrated the opening of the new facility Thursday, with Congressman John Carter, R-Round Rock, offering remarks on it.
“The battlefield has changed,” he said. “The battlefield now includes cyberattacks, so the more we know, the more we can defend against…the better we will do on the battlefield.”
The university’s proximity to Fort Hood is what made it a “logical choice” to establish a cybersecurity center there.
Carter helped secure funding for the cybersecurity center in an appropriations bill in 2017.
Damiano Torre, a research associate in the university’s computer systems department, reiterated that cybersecurity is a hot topic in the world right now.
He explained some of the research he and his team of researchers have done so far.
“What we’re doing now is developing new techniques to be able to identify cybersecurity attacks,” Torre said, explaining that this is deep learning.
Torre and his fellow researchers and interns are also working on new privacy-preserving techniques.
“For example, when there’s a data transaction between me and you on our computer, the data goes from point A to point B. In that journey, there can be a leak,” Torre said. “So even though there are different methodologies to keep this transaction safe, there is always the possibility of leakage.”
Torre, who is from Italy, earned his doctorate from a university in Canada and recently worked as a researcher in Luxembourg, Germany, before coming to A&M-Central Texas.
One of the students working with Torre at A&M-Central Texas is Alex Rodriguez, a native of Copperas Cove.
Rodriguez explained that his career aspirations were to work for a large corporation’s cybersecurity team.
“The future of cybersecurity is really bright,” Rodriguez said.
A&M-Central Texas renovated a few classrooms to make way for the cybersecurity center. Two classrooms, totaling 1,873 square feet, were upgraded with new furniture, audio-video equipment and new laptops for a total of $821,000, according to documents provided by the university.
Emmet Gray, adjunct professor, explained why the lab needed to be revamped with new technology.
“We needed a secure facility to be able to do things that could be in some way dangerous, like virus scanning, for example. You wouldn’t want to do this in a typical, normal classroom. You get a special classroom that has special security and special isolation,” Gray said.
One of the courses that Gray teaches at the university is on malware analysis where students get a virus on their computer systems, and their task is to understand the characteristics of the virus and what it does as well as to figure out how to defend against it.
The classroom-turned-laboratory is configured with dozens of computers, giving the university the ability to have teams of students or researchers. It will also give the university the opportunity to organize cybersecurity competitions.