UTSA tops in cyber security

The cybersecurity programs at UTSA are the best in the nation, according to a survey of security professionals conducted by The Ponemon Institute on behalf of Hewlett-Packard, released on Feb. 24.

According to Computerworld, which first released the news, the survey asked 2,000 IT security professionals to rank their top choices from a list of 403 colleges and universities. UTSA was ranked first, with Norwich University and Mississippi State University rounding out the top three. Respondents rated the schools based on their academic rigor, quality of faculty and professional reputation.

When asked how UTSA has achieved this distinction, Interim Chair of the Department of Computer Science, Dr. Rajendra Boppana, mentioned many factors. “First, is longevity…we were one of the first schools in the nation to be certified by the NSA as a Center for Academic Excellence (CAE) in Information Assurance Education, and again one of the first to be designated a CAE in Information Assurance Research. So, we’ve been at this for quite awhile,” he said.

He also mentioned a “great breadth in our information security offerings and research” spread among the Colleges of Engineering, Science and Business.

Dr. Boppana added that UTSA has three centers the Institute for Cyber Security (ICS), the Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security (CIAS) and the Center for Education and Research in Information and Infrastructure Assurance and Security (CERIS) – two of which “are predominantly research centers… (playing) a role in facilitating and supporting UTSA information security researchers.”

The third, CIAS, is “significantly involved with the cyber defense competitions, exercises and training programs” that UTSA founded, such as the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition and the high school CyberPatriot contest.

Local leadership is also seen as an important factor. Executive Director of the Institute for Cyber Security and Endowed Chair in Cyber Security, Dr. Ravi Sandhu, stated, “Considerable credit must go to President Romo and local tech entrepreneurs for recognizing the importance of cyber security. This started a major push towards excellence,” leading to the creation of the various institutes and collaboration between departments that are “establishing UTSA as a world leader in cybersecurity and cloud computing research.”

When asked what separates UTSA’s programs from those at other schools, Dr. Boppana replied, “I know of no other school that does this many different things in so many areas…and, as the survey points out, we do them with high quality.”