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Cybersecurity test bed opens at The University of Akron

Technology for Lawyers

Published: February 14, 2020

Local industry and institutions will get some much-needed help in the cybersecurity area with the opening of The University of Akron’s cybersecurity “test bed,” which will be located in a 2,000-square foot facility in the Polsky Building downtown.
The new lab will train the local cybersecurity workforce on how to respond to, prevent or ameliorate cyberattacks, said John Nicholas, professor of Computer Information Systems and Cybersecurity.
“The lab will be similar to the Digital Forensic lab rung by Stan Smith in that companies will pay a nominal fee for its use,” said Nicholas.
The lab will concentrate on cybersecurity training for local industries, and then expand out from there.
“Forty percent of Ohio’s industry is in the north,” said Nicholas. “We are manufacturing-heavy here, and the lab connects to that. The security of producing things is important.”
Cybersecurity in the manufacturing sector may not get a lot of publicity but it is critically important to national security.
Michael Morrell, former acting director and deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, host of the “Intelligence Matters” podcast, and University of Akron alum applauded the creation of the test bed. One of the country’s foremost national security experts, he was on hand for the opening ceremony and later spoke by telephone in an interview.
Asked what the primary cybersecurity threats are to the manufacturing sector, Morrell said that there were two primary ones.
“The two threats are nation-states targeting manufacturers’ equipment to shut down or alter the manufacture of defense equipment,” he said. “But the bigger threat is organized crime holding a manufacturer hostage through ransomware.”
Morrell said that “to mitigate that risk, manufacturers need cutting-edge cybersecurity and people who are comfortable (deploying and operating) that technology.”
Proper deployment, he said, “includes the software, the hardware, and the people.” That is where a test bed comes in.
A test bed like the one at Akron, Morrell said, has “a unique and important role” in the effort to secure manufacturers—so much so that he said that he wrote a letter early on in the process supporting the grant behind the creation of the facility.
The test bed is not only for people currently involved in manufacturing security but is also available to train the university students who are involved in cybersecurity studies, Morrell said.
The world future students will find after leaving school over the next few years will be working ion what he said is a “new battlespace domain. Air, land, sea, space and cyberspace” are where the battles are now fought. The bad actors are always a step ahead, and “the kids graduating into that space” will have their work cut out for them.”
Local industry will have to wait a few weeks to access the lab, which is not quite ready yet, Nicholas said.
“We just cut the ribbon—but we expect the lab to be open some time in the Spring semester,” said Nicholas.
Cyber Range
Nicholas also noted the university’s new $1.8 million agreement with the Ohio Cyber Range, which provides a cybersecurity training environment for the computer security workforce of government, education, business and other institutions.
Ohio Cyber Range is a program headed by the Ohio Adjutant General Akron is the second institution, after the University of Cincinnati, to be invited to participate in this program. The grant money will be used to purchase equipment and provide training that will double the size of the Ohio Cyber Range program.
“Cyber Range will be housed half in Akron and half in Cincinnati,” said Nicholas.
According to the press release, “the Ohio Cyber Range is an initiative developed by the Ohio Cyber Collaboration Committee (OC3), a collaborative effort, led by the Adjutant General’s Department, of more than 200 people who represent public, private, military and educational organizations.”
Bringing the Ohio Cyber Range training programs into the university was a natural connection for the school’s already-existing cybersecurity programs.
“The University of Akron has a strong existing cybersecurity program and a commitment to helping all of Ohio improve cyber education,” said Maj. Gen. Mark E. Bartman, Ohio adjutant general, in a press release from the university. “This new site of the Ohio Cyber Range will bring range services closer to the residents of Northeast Ohio and provide access to new learning tools for cybersecurity.”