Several landmark developments in the University of Rhode Island’s efforts to remain at the forefront of digital-forensics education and training are pushing the South Kingstown institution toward potential new funding sources and collaborations that will enhance its academic reach in preparing students for what it sees as a burgeoning job marketplace.
The university announced on April 27 that it had been named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
The designation, which came just as the university prepared to host its second cybersecurity symposium on May 2, establishes that URI coursework and degrees meet NSA/DHS industry certification standards and requirements.
“We were very proud. It’s probably the premier designation for cybersecurity academic programs in the country,” professor Victor Fay-Wolfe said. “A lot of federal programs, particularly anything having to do with training or academic development, unofficially treat this as a prerequisite before they’ll consider you [for funding].”
Fay-Wolfe, a professor of computer science who has been at URI since 1991, founded the Digital Forensics and Cyber Security Center in 2004 after getting a first-hand look at Sensei Enterprises, his cousin’s Washington, D.C., computer-forensics firm that, he said, was one of the first in the country.
The program was established with a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. In eight years it has, through its course tracks, taught about 100 undergraduate and 100 graduate students.
In addition to minor concentrations in digital forensics, the DFCSC also runs research and service programs that have, among other things, developed a pornography-scanning tool that is used by law enforcement agencies nationwide.
The research program is funded by the U.S. Justice Department, while the service component, which Fay-Wolfe likens to a teaching hospital, charges, on a nonprofit model, companies and individuals for assistance on such things as hard drive investigations.