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RIT welcomes esteemed researcher to lead new Center for Cybersecurity

June 7, 2016 
by Scott Bureau

Matthew Wright, a leading expert in internet security and privacy, will join Rochester Institute of Technology in August. He will serve as a faculty member in the Department of Computing Security and director of the new Center for Cybersecurity.

The new multidisciplinary center, in the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences, aims to tackle the challenges of cybersecurity by allowing faculty and students to engage in a wide variety of research, by creating partnerships with industry and by promoting wider cybersecurity education and training.

The Center for Cybersecurity will open this fall located in the Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies (CIMS) building on the RIT campus.

“Matthew is a rising star in cybersecurity, who has done tremendous work from both the sociological and technological approaches of security,” said Anne Haake, dean of the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences. “We are excited to welcome him as we push research in cybersecurity forward.”

Wright comes to RIT from the University of Texas at Arlington where he was an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and co-director of the university’s Information Security (iSec) Lab. He is a recipient of the NSF CAREER Award, which has supported his research in designing an anonymity system for the next-generation internet.

“With so much risk to such a wide range of critical information online, helping to protect people and organizations from cyber threats is of tremendous importance,” said Wright. “RIT already has a world-class program to educate students in cybersecurity and prepare them for great careers. Our goal is to build on that and create a world-class research program to match.”

With the center, Wright and RIT plan to develop a widely recognized cybersecurity research program that highlights the strengths of RIT’s faculty and student researchers. Researchers will publish papers and seek funding from the National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), other federal agencies and by partnering with industry.

“One of the first things we want to do is develop research themes—directions that will allow us to talk about our research in an accessible way,” said Wright. “Some themes that we have discussed so far include human-centered cybersecurity, the Internet of Things and other emerging technologies, forensics and privacy.

The new center will also strengthen ties with the cybersecurity industry through student recruiting and a Pentesting Laboratory, where businesses can get their software and systems tested for security vulnerabilities by teams of students who seek to penetrate their security measures.

“We imagine providing pentesting services for medium and small companies that would not typically be able to afford large contracts to do a pentest,” said Bo Yuan, chair of RIT’s Department of Computing Security and associate professor. “This would help companies verify the security of their networks, systems and software services, while giving our students real-world experience.”

Insights from cybersecurity research will also be used to enrich classes at RIT and outreach programs for prospective computing security students.

Wright received his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Harvey Mudd College, and his master’s and Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His areas of interest include systems for providing internet privacy, usable security and privacy, and secure and reliable peer-to-peer and ubiquitous computing.

The Center for Cybersecurity is made possible through a $3 million commitment from RIT and the Golisano College toward Sociotechnical Approaches to Cybersecurity research. The initial cybersecurity team will consist of 25 faculty researchers from five different colleges at RIT, including the disciplines of computing, engineering, public policy, business, psychology, mathematics and English.

In 2012, RIT became the first university in the nation to create an academic department solely dedicated to computing security. RIT’s Department of Computing Security is housed within RIT’s B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences. In 2014, the college was awarded a multimillion-dollar National Science Foundation CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service grant that supports cutting-edge computing security education and attracts top students to RIT.