The National Security Agency has designated Indiana University of Pennsylvania as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD), continuing a 20-year recognition of IUP’s leadership in this discipline.

The recognition, which IUP has held since 2002, extends through 2027. Universities must complete a comprehensive two-phase application for this designation.

IUP was one of only two universities in Pennsylvania and one of only 40 universities in the nation selected for the recognition in 2002. Currently, IUP remains one of only 16 universities in Pennsylvania selected for the designation.

The Center of Academic Excellence criteria includes evaluation of a university’s cyberdefense curriculum, collaboration with the university information technology, educational outreach to the community, and interactions with other educational entities such as elementary, middle, and high schools, community colleges, and other universities.

“IUP is very proud of this program’s sustained excellence and growth and our outstanding cybersecurity graduates, many holding leadership positions in federal agencies working to keep our nation—and all of us—safe and secure,” IUP President Michael Driscoll said. “Our cybersecurity major and the Institute for Cyber Security continue to work to develop cutting-edge programming and new initiatives, and this recognition is well-deserved,” he said.

The Institute for Cyber Security at IUP was founded in 2005 to further encourage and promote cybersecurity at IUP and the surrounding community.

President Driscoll also recognized Waleed Farag, IUP Institute for Cyber Security director and computer science professor, for his leadership in securing the ongoing recognition.

“It’s very gratifying to hear from program reviewers that IUP’s proposal, written by Dr. Farag, was ‘the best they have ever seen’ and the ‘first they have reviewed that did not require adjustments,” Driscoll said.

“In addition to this continued recognition, IUP’s Institute for Cyber Security has been successful in securing millions of dollars in national grants to benefit our students and our community through innovative programs like the Department of Defense scholarships and the GenCyber camps for high school students and teachers,” he said.

IUP was one of the first universities in the nation to integrate the disciplines of criminology and computer science to support an academic program in cybersecurity.

IUP began offering its Bachelor of Science in Computer Science/Cyber Security Track (originally Information Assurance) and a minor in cybersecurity in 2002. This program combined core computer science and cybersecurity classes with a minor in criminology, creating a novel curriculum that helped students gain a broad understanding of the field and be work-ready.

IUP’s interdisciplinary program includes faculty and students from computer science, criminology, and economics.

As of fall 2021, the IUP Cyber Security program has more than 120 students enrolled, and about 20 students annually complete the program and receive their bachelor’s degree in the Computer Science/Cyber Security Track. IUP’s program also focuses on cybercrime detection, loss prevention, and how to collect the evidence to prosecute cybersecurity offenders.

“I am glad of the trust that major federal agencies, including the National Security Agency, have in IUP for over two decades and their exceptional testimony of the quality of our applications, programs, and students,” Farag said. “Over the past few years, the ICS at IUP has established novel initiatives and projects that made IUP not only a regional leader in cybersecurity education and research but also a known name at the national level.”  In addition to his leadership of the Institute, Farag directs IUP’s Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship Program, IUP GenCyber program, and the IUP IoT Anomaly Detection Research Projects.

In the last six years, IUP’s Institute for Cyber Security has secured more than $3.5 million in federal funding for IUP sponsored initiatives and programs, including:

  • Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship Program. IUP, along with a selected group of national universities, has been awarded funding for four consecutive academic years from the Department of Defense in support of the Cyber Scholarship Program. Since the 2018–19 academic year, more than 25 students studying at IUP have received these multi-year, renewable scholarships, which include mentoring, full tuition and fees, an annual stipend, and funding for books and a laptop. In addition, students who are selected for the scholarships are guaranteed a civilian position with a Department of Defense agency for the number of years that they receive the scholarship. Students in the program also do a summer internship to gain experience in the field.

  • Funding for a novel professional development program for faculty and students at various community colleges across Pennsylvania to find additional ways to recruit more students to enter the cybersecurity workforce. This goal was achieved through a unique blend of faculty development, hands-on workshops, and the continued cultivation of relationships with local community colleges.

  • Seven years of federal funding for GenCyber. This program offers free, weeklong camps held at IUP and taught by IUP faculty for middle and high school students and teachers in those grades. The camps are designed to address essential cybersecurity concepts to build awareness of cybersecurity issues and to strengthen interest in cybersecurity as a career. More than 50 teachers and more than 350 middle and high school students have participated in IUP’s free camps since 2016. IUP has received more than $700,000 in funding from the NSF and NSA for the GenCyber program over the past seven years. GenCyber camps were offered virtually in 2020 and 2021.

  • For the past 14 years, IUP has organized and presented an annual Cybersecurity/Information Assurance Day, which features nationally recognized security experts, as well as speakers from regional law enforcement, government, security industry, and academia.

  • In academic years 2020–21 and 2021–22, IUP received $250,000 from the National Security Agency to conduct state-of-the-art research study focusing on improving IoT (Internet of Things) systems security through the NCAE-C Cyber Curriculum and Research 2020 Program. The Internet of Things is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals, or people that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.

  • In 2017, a team of faculty at IUP led by Farag received a grant of $212,000 from the National Security Agency to enhance cybersecurity education in western Pennsylvania. The team included faculty from English, Professional Studies in Education, and Political Science and students at IUP. The project, completed in 2018, resulted in the development of a cohesive set of services to innovatively address known challenges facing cybersecurity education, incorporating an interdisciplinary approach in designing and implementing these services that will appeal to diverse cybertalent—including women and minorities—and serve a geographical area that is predominantly rural. This project was part of the Cybersecurity National Action Plan: Investment in Expansion of CAE-C (Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity) Education Program. IUP, as a national Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, was eligible to submit a proposal for the grant, which asked for innovative approaches, employing input from a diverse set of cybersecurity education professionals.

A 2014 Ponemon Institute study ranked IUP’s Computer Science Department in the top 25 percent of 183 American schools for cybersecurity education. The Ponemon Institute conducts independent research on digital privacy and security.

IUP is a National Cyber Security Alliance “Champion,” recognized by the National Cyber Security Alliance. IUP was recognized in a 2014 national survey of “Best Schools for Cybersecurity” by HP Enterprise Security, released in October 2015. The university was ranked in the top 25 percent of all cybersecurity programs in the nation. Only four Pennsylvania colleges and universities were rated in the top quartile.