A new cyber security center on the campus of Texas A&M University-Central Texas in Killeen will allow researchers, faculty members and students to assist in a global effort to block cyber attacks. University officials celebrated the opening of the new facility Thursday, with Congressman John Carter, R-Round Rock, offering remarks about it.
“The battlefield has changed,” he said. “The battlefield now includes cyber attacks, so therefore the more we know and the more we can defend against … the better we’ll do on the battlefield.”
The university’s proximity to Fort Hood is what made it a “logical choice” to start a cyber security center there.
Carter helped secure funding for the cyber security center in an appropriations bill in 2017.
Damiano Torre, an associate research scientist of the university’s Computer Information Systems Department, reiterated cyber security is a hot-button topic in the world right now.
He explained some of the research he and his team of researchers have done thus far.
“What we are doing now is to develop new techniques to be able to identify cyber security attacks,” Torre said, explaining that it is called deep enforcement learning.
Torre and his fellow researchers and interns are also working on new privacy preservation 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 traveling, there might be a leak,” Torre said. “So even though there are different methodologies to keep that transaction safe, there is always a possibility of leakage.”
Torre, who is from Italy, obtained his doctoral degree from a university in Canada and most 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 Copperas Cove native.
Rodriguez explained his career aspirations are to work for a large corporation’s cyber security team.
“The future for cyber security is really bright,” Rodriguez said.
A&M-Central Texas has renovated a couple of classrooms to make way for the cyber security center. Two classrooms, totaling 1,873 square feet, have been retrofitted with new furnishings, audio-video equipment and new laptop computers for a total of $821,000, according to documents provided by the university.
Emmet Gray, an adjunct professor, explained why the lab had to be renovated with new technology.
“We needed a secure facility to be able to do things that could be kind of, sort of, dangerous — like analyzing viruses, for example. You wouldn’t want to do that in a typical, normal classroom. You get a special classroom that has special security and special isolation,” Gray said.
One of the classes Gray teaches at the university is on malware analysis where students receive a virus on their computer systems, and their task is to figure out the characteristics of the virus and what it is doing as well as figure out how to defend against it.
The classroom-turned-lab 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 ability to host cyber security competitions.