MISSOULA – The University of Montana plans to create a new Cyber Innovation Laboratory in collaboration with state technology companies. The new facility will train students in cybersecurity and using so-called “big data” to search for patterns that solve real-world problems using massive datasets.
The lab initially will be outfitted using donations from Montana technology companies. The state’s entire U.S. congressional delegation has voiced support for the UM initiative.
Curricula will be designed for use with the lab, and UM officials envision new certificate and degree offerings involving cybersecurity, big data and assurance, which involves safety, security and compliance.
“The Cyber Innovation Laboratory at UM will be a place where students are given real-world experience and learn the technical skills that employees require in this dynamic and growing industry,” UM President Royce Engstrom said.
The lab will train students in vulnerability assessment, in which they are taught how to identify weaknesses in information systems. In an isolated, secure laboratory, students will learn how hackers penetrate computer systems in order to help companies better protect themselves from hostile data breaches. Students also will study digital forensic analysis, studying evidence from data breaches to better track down hackers.
“This announcement couldn’t have come at a better time,” U.S. Sen. Max Baucus said. “Just at leaders from the world’s largest technology companies are ascending on Montana for our Economic Development Summit, UM’s Cyber Lab shows the world that Montana will have the skilled workforce necessary to lead the way on cybersecurity and big data.”
UM Provost Perry Brown said the four major components of big data are analytics, infrastructure, cybersecurity and mobility. He said UM researchers such as Regents Professor Steve Running already use massive datasets from environmental satellites to study ecological and climate changes across the globe, and big data are used frequently in political and business analyses.
“The Cyber Lab at UM is an exciting example of how we can build a world-class cyber and big data educational program right here in Montana,” said U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, who serves on the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity. “After helping a Bozeman-based cloud computing company grow and create jobs, I know firsthand that Montana already hosts a vibrant technology and cyber industry.
“We want innovators to know that Montana is ready for their business – that we have the infrastructure, labor pool and other qualities that make our state an ideal headquarters,” Daines said. “This program at UM will help ensure that we produce a top-notch labor pool to serve those businesses and help Montana’s technology sector grow.”
Brown said this new effort represents a logical outgrowth of UM’s commitment to technology educational and research programs. Working in collaboration with the IBM’s Academic Initiative, the University already boasts a national, first-of-its-kind undergraduate course in stream computing, allowing students to learn real-time analytical skills in mathematics, computer science and business process optimization. UM also recently received a National Science Foundation grant of nearly $500,000 to improve the University’s cyberinfrastructure.
In addition, UM’s Department of Mathematical Sciences will offer a big data analytics course this semester, and Missoula College faculty members are developing a proposal for a cybersecurity certificate.
“As businesses continue to push technologies to new heights, Montana needs well-trained men and women who are capable of doing the jobs of the 21st century,” U.S. Sen. John Tester said. “All Montanans will benefit from this lab and UM’s foresight as we grow our state’s computer science industry together.”