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URI honored as a National Center of Excellence by National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security

Media Contact: Ericka Tavares, 401-874-2935

KINGSTON, R.I., April 27, 2012 – The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security (NSA/DHS) have selected the University of Rhode Island as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education.

This designation is the nation’s premier academic certification for cybersecurity education, demonstrating that URI’s coursework and degrees meet the most important industry certification standards and NSA/DHS requirements.

“This award highlights the University’s expertise and influence in the rapidly growing field of cybersecurity education,” said URI President David M. Dooley. “Cybersecurity is one of the most critical issues facing us today and researchers here are leading the way.”

URI’s Digital Forensics and Cyber Security Center (DFCSC) is a multi-disciplinary hub on the Kingston campus that harnesses the resources of Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the Office of Information Technology. Established in 2004 with a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, DFCSC provides courses and degree programs, research, services, and consulting in digital forensics, information assurance, and cybersecurity. Its research objective is to formulate new concepts that help digital forensics and cybersecurity professionals protect the nation’s citizens.

“We are very proud to have all of the things we are doing in teaching, research, and service in both digital forensics and cybersecurity recognized by the NSA/DHS,” said URI Professor of Computer Science Victor Fay-Wolfe, who founded DFCSC. “This is what universities strive for.”

All institutions that apply for the designation must pass a rigorous review and demonstrate a commitment to academic excellence in cyber operations. URI Associate Professor Lisa DiPippo started the process about a year ago, knowing DFCSC met all the requirements for course certification and the staff and faculty credentials and teaching track record were stellar. Although funding is not attached to the Center of Academic Excellence designation, DiPippo and Fay-Wolfe said it opens additional opportunities. In the past five years, DFCSC has attracted more than $4.5 million in federal research funds.

URI’s Vice President of Research and Economic Development Peter Alfonso said, “This is an important aspect of the University of Rhode Island’s research enterprise.”

DFCSC's research in the “trust framework” concept is a model for understanding network security that includes a recent National Science Foundation award to Study cybersecurity issues in the power grid.

“This recognition establishes the University of Rhode Island’s well-earned status as one of the nation’s leading educational institutions supporting what is becoming, according to the head of the FBI, our nation’s most serious national security challenge,” said Congressman Jim Langevin, who co-founded the bipartisan Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus. “I am proud to work on many initiatives with professors Vic Fay-Wolfe and Lisa DiPippo, who truly understand both the urgency with which we must act to improve our nation’s cybersecurity and the opportunity we have to create a robust cyber workforce in Rhode Island. Under the continued outstanding leadership of President Dooley, I am confident that URI will use this designation to strengthen protections for Americans against cyber threats and create jobs in our state."

The academic institutions honored by the NSA/DHS are recognized leaders in information assurance and cybersecurity. Graduates of the programs often develop into cyber experts who help to protect national-security information systems, commercial networks, and critical information infrastructure in both the private and public sectors, meeting the increasingly urgent needs of the U.S. government, industry, and academia.

"I congratulate the University of Rhode Island on this well-earned achievement,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “Cybersecurity is perhaps the most important national security issue facing our nation, with immense job growth expected in government and private-sector cyber defense. Rhode Island is lucky to have institutions like URI and public officials like Congressman Langevin dedicated to keeping us safe from cyber threats. I look forward to continuing my work with them, and I thank them for their leadership.”

The honor comes just as leading authorities on computer network security are preparing to join with digital forensics experts and Rep. Langevin at URI’s Kingston campus on May 2nd for the University’s Cybersecurity Symposium. For more information, view the event agenda: http://cybersecurity2012.uri.edu/agenda.php

URI began to pursue the designation following the University's first Cybersecurity Symposium hosted with Congressman Langevin. In a discussion between Dooley, key faculty members, Rep. Langevin, Sen. Whitehouse, and NSA Director Keith Alexander, it was apparent that DFCSC's work should qualify for this distinction.

NSA/DHS jointly sponsor the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education (CAE/IAE) and CAE-Research (CAE-R) programs. The goal of these programs is to reduce vulnerability in the national information infrastructure by promoting higher education and research in IA and producing a growing number of professionals with IA expertise in various disciplines. Designation as a CAE/IAE or CAE-R is valid for five academic years, after which the school must successfully reapply in order to retain its CAE designation.