NSA recognizes UB as a leader in cybersecurity education

Illustration of a lock in front of computer code.

By Nicole Capozziello

Published May 26, 2022

The University at Buffalo has once again been designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) by the National Security Agency (NSA), in acknowledgment of its strong educational efforts in cybersecurity. 

“This designation brings visibility to our program across the nation, particularly within federal agencies. Furthermore, this can directly lead to career opportunities for our many talented students, opening the door to jobs in cybersecurity at various federal agencies.”
Shambhu Upadhyaya, professor
Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Shambhu Upadhyaya.

Shambhu Upadhyaya

UB first received this designation in 2002 and has now been continuously designated for 20 years. The current CAE-CD designation will last through the academic year 2027.

The designation recognizes the diverse educational offerings around cybersecurity that UB offers, including its Advanced Certificate in Cybersecurity. The certificate, which is a collaboration between the Department of Computer Science and Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Management, offers technical and managerial tracks to master’s students.

“A highly skilled cybersecurity workforce is a strategic national security advantage,” says Karen Leuschner, national CAE program manager, National Security Agency. “Education is key to promoting our ideals – and the United States government will continue to invest in and enhance programs that build the domestic talent pipeline, from primary through postsecondary education.”

The application and evaluation process for the CAE-CD designation is very rigorous.  “Earning this designation is a seal of approval by the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security, confirming that our program meets their standards,” says Shambhu Upadhyaya, professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and associate dean for research and graduate education in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

The CAE-CD designation also makes the university eligible to apply for certain grants earmarked for such institutions. 

“This designation brings visibility to our program across the nation, particularly within federal agencies,” says Upadhyaya. “Furthermore, this can directly lead to career opportunities for our many talented students, opening the door to jobs in cybersecurity at various federal agencies.”

“The strength of UB’s program is the opportunity to develop important hands-on experience that translates directly to real world application,” says Jackie Dufresne (MS, CSE’21), who is now a cyber operations engineer at the MITRE Corporation. “My job involves a lot of technical writing, presentations and sponsor-facing interaction. The hands-on and practical knowledge I gained while doing this certificate is crucial to my success in my current role.”

UB’s cybersecurity certificate program includes courses on computer security, modern networking concepts, information assurance and digital forensics, all of which aim to equip students with the tools necessary to embark on a career in cybersecurity.

“Students can achieve a very diverse experience basis through the Cybersecurity Certificate program to both help find an academic specialization and expand the opportunities that will manifest when seeking employment in the future,” says Phil Fox (MS CSE’21), risk analyst, National Risk Management Center, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Much of UB’s cybersecurity education and research takes place at the Center of Excellence in Information Systems Assurance Research and Education (CEISARE), directed by Upadhyaya.

Research at CEISARE includes the broad areas of e-commerce, security, networks and secure voting. Current projects address critical issues such as the development of cyber-attack recognition systems, protecting documents from insider threats, real-time intrusion detection, unintended information retrieval, and the security of corporate intranets.

In addition to working with groups during her courses for the Cybersecurity Certificate, Dufresne took part in the NetDef Club at UB and participated in various cyber defense competitions. “These opportunities gave me lots of hands-on experience with cybersecurity tools and working in team environments, which is something I do every day at my job,” she says.

Since CEISARE’s establishment, it has received over $10 million in research and education grants from agencies such as NSA, National Science Foundation, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), and companies such as Intel Corporation and Harris Communication. More than 165 students have received the Advanced Certificate in Cybersecurity.

In addition, CEISARE offers many educational programs for the greater Western New York community, including programming for middle and high school students. This includes a summer camp under the GenCyber program pioneered by NSA, as well as more than 100 cybersecurity awareness workshops that have been attended by 3,500 students.

The center routinely connects university students to cybersecurity competitions, engaging students interested cybersecurity from a range of backgrounds. Through the NSF CyberCorps scholarship for service, they have produced more than 50 cybersecurity experts since 2008.