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Kansas State University’s cyber security center earned redesignation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense Research.

The university’s Center for Information and Systems Assurance gained the designation from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Security Agency (NSA) and is effective from 2014 to 2019.

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“The redesignation is a strong indication that the center’s research continues to be highly regarded by major federal agencies,” said Xinming “Simon” Ou, associate professor of computing and information sciences and director of the center. “This will help bring in future funding opportunities. The designation is also a requirement for our students to receive certain federal scholarships in cyber security.”

The official Center of Academic Excellence certificate ended up presented on June 16 in San Diego as part of the 18th Colloquium for Information Systems Security Education.

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Kansas State University’s Center for Information and Systems Assurance — also known as CISA — involves a wide range of research in cyber security and information assurance, including high-assurance software, network security, cloud security, mobile-system security, cyber-physical system security, usable security, privacy and anonymity.

“We would like to grow the center by adding more faculty members and research staff who can work across disciplines, since cyber security is inherently a multidisciplinary problem involving both technical and social, behavioral and economical domains,” Ou said.

Some of the most exciting new research efforts in the center, such as bringing anthropology into cyber security and cyber-physical system security, are interdisciplinary, Ou said.

“To be successful in these endeavors, we need more people who can talk multiple languages and work with a diverse range of domain experts,” Ou said. “The goal is to make the center an established name in cyber security and increase our capability of going after major funding opportunities on a multimillion-dollar scale.”

The university’s Center for Information and Systems Assurance had previously received the Center of Academic Excellence designation from 2010 to 2015.

In its first four years of the national designation, the center achieved multiple goals:
• A $2.4 million National Science Foundation grant that started the university’s CyberCorp Scholarship for Service program. The center selected the first cohort of scholars in fall 2013.
• A $606,000 grant from the Department of Defense University Research Instrumentation Program is strengthening the university’s cyber security research and education infrastructure.
• John Hatcliff, university distinguished professor of computing and information sciences, has led the laboratory for specification, analysis and transformation of software, also known as the SAnToS laboratory, in creating technologies that major industry players use in the high-assurance software area.
• Ou is leading the Argus Cybersecurity Lab, which is improving cyber-infrastructure protection by working extensively with industry partners and proposing game-changing new ideas for cyber defense.
• Scott DeLoach, professor of computing and information sciences, is collaborating with Ou on a moving target-defense project supported by a $1 million grant received from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
• An interdisciplinary academic and industry collaboration is using a $700,000 National Science Foundation grant to bring anthropological methods into studying cyber defense operations.
• Eugene Vasserman, assistant professor of computing and information sciences, is using his expertise in system security, privacy and anonymity to investigate security issues in medical device coordination framework. He has received two National Science Foundation grants for this effort, including the prestigious CAREER award.

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