The University of New Orleans has been awarded $195,400 to develop Louisiana’s first so-called “cyber range,” an advanced training facility for cybersecurity and operations that simulates real cyber threats in a contained virtual environment.
Under the direction of Department of Computer Science faculty Vassil Roussev, Irfan Ahmed and Minhaz Zibran, the facility aims to provide unparalleled opportunities for students and working professionals to acquire workforce knowledge and skills that are directly relevant to a fast growing number of cybersecurity jobs across Louisiana.
The Louisiana Board of Regents Enhancement Grant will pay for hardware facilities—servers, network switches and storage—as well as a portable power plant simulator and software from one of the leading providers of cyber range solutions.
The project team will leverage existing University of New Orleans facilities—including its data center, dedicated research and instructional labs and its network operations center—to develop a flexible and cost-efficient environment that will serve at least 250 students in cybersecurity and operations each year.
The new cyber range will be utilized in at least 12 undergraduate and graduate courses and is closely aligned with the mission of the Greater New Orleans Center for Information Assurance at the University of New Orleans. The GNOCIA is a nationally recognized center for research and advanced education led by Roussev that is designated a Center of Academic Excellence by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security. Roussev, who is the project’s principal investigator, is the director of the GNOCIA and the Canizaro-Livingston Endowed Professor in Cybersecurity.
Together, Roussev and co-principal investigators Ahmed and Zibran, both assistant professors of computer science, have been awarded more than $2 million in current funding from the National Science Foundation and Department of Defense for cybersecurity education projects.
This work complements Louisiana’s stance as host of a large number of critical infrastructure facilities such as refineries, pipelines and power plants, which are under an escalating number of cyberattacks. The University of New Orleans’ cyber range will enable the advance training of cyber defenders capable of effectively securing these facilities.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, demand for information security analysist is expected to grow 28 percent between 2016 and 2016, much faster than the average for all occupations. Median wage for these positions in 2017 was $95,510.