A new facility at the University of Montana will allow students to learn about cybersecurity and use “big data” to solve real-world problems.
On Monday, UM announced plans to open a Cyber Innovation Laboratory in collaboration with state technology companies. The lab is an outgrowth of UM’s programs, research and technology, and it will be funded initially through donations from private tech companies.
“The Cyber Innovation Laboratory at UM will be a place where students are given real-world experience and learn the technical skills that employees require in this dynamic and growing industry,” UM president Royce Engstrom said in a news release.
The initial private investment in the lab is estimated to be $20,000, and UM aims to open its doors in a couple of months, according to Provost Perry Brown. He said UM has not determined the exact location on campus, but is homing in on sites of roughly 1,000 square feet.
In the lab, students will learn how to prevent hacking and track down hackers. They will study “vulnerability assessment, in which they are taught how to identify weaknesses in information systems.”
They also will learn “how hackers penetrate computer systems” to help companies protect themselves from breaches, and they will study digital forensic analysis and learn how to better trace hackers.
While the lab will be new at UM, “big data” already is in use there, Brown said. He said UM researcher Steve Running, for instance, already uses massive datasets to study climate change, and other researchers use it to conduct business and political analyses.
UM officials will design curricula to use with the lab, and they envision new certificates and degrees involving cybersecurity and big data.
According to the news release, the state’s entire congressional delegation voiced support for the project.
“This announcement couldn’t have come at a better time,” said U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, a Democrat. “Just as leaders from the world’s largest technology companies are ascending on Montana for our Economic Development Summit, UM’s Cyber Lab shows the world that Montana will have the skilled workforce necessary to lead the way on cybersecurity and big data.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, a Republican who serves on the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, said he knows Montana already hosts “a vibrant technology and cyber industry” because he grew a Bozeman-based cloud computing company. He said the lab is “an exciting example of how we can build a world-class cyber and big data educational program right here in Montana.”
“We want innovators to know that Montana is ready for their business – that we have the infrastructure, labor pool and other qualities that make our state an ideal headquarters,” Daines said.
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, also praised the initiative: “As businesses continue to push technologies to new heights, Motnana needs well-trained men and women who are capable of doing the jobs of the 21st century,” Tester said. “All Montanans will benefit from this lab and UM’s foresight as we grow our state’s computer science industry together.”