Hearst grant will boost St. Mary’s cybersecurity program

The new cybersecurity program at St. Mary’s University will debut a lab next summer, thanks to a grant announced by the Hearst Foundations on Wednesday.

The $100,000 grant will largely go toward purchasing new hardware and software for the school’s digital forensics courses, providing a boost to St. Mary’s cybersecurity program, which launched in the fall of 2015.

Currently, students have access to some but not all of the necessary lab equipment, and the school compensated with virtual simulations on laptops, said Ayad Barsoum, an assistant computer science professor and director of the cybersecurity program. A new lab will allow students to put their classroom knowledge into practice, he said.

Together, the new program and grant will fuel increasing demand in the job market for cybersecurity experts, Barsoum said.

“It’s not only our nation but all over the world we can see that there are cyber attacks,” Barsoum said. “Attackers now, they have really powerful tools that can attack our systems. We need to prepare our people to be able to defend against that.”

The remainder of the grant will likely be used to purchase additional computers and dual monitors for desktop stations.

While the money will directly benefit the cybersecurity program, Barsoum said use of the new equipment will also be open to students studying computer science and engineering.

The lab is expected to open by summer 2017.


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