NSA Funds Cybersecurity Project to Bolster Security of Cloud-Based Computing

A University of Arkansas at Little Rock researcher has received funding from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to improve cybersecurity skills for students and the general population.

Dr. Mengjun XieUA Little Rock associate professor of computer science, is working to build a virtual cybersecurity lab. He recently received an $85,912 addition to his original NSA grant, bringing the total NSA funding for the project to $124,527.

The cybersecurity lab project, “Networking and Network Security in the Cloud (NetSiC),” will address issues related to cloud-based computing environments and help students practice networking and cyber defense skills.

“This project is unique because it allows students to conduct networking and security practices in a computing cloud they choose, and the developed software will be free to use,” Xie said. “While other cloud-based cybersecurity labs are available, they either do not provide enough flexibility or require users to pay in order to use their platform.”

The virtual lab will incorporate a group of learning modules that can help undergraduate students conduct cloud-networking experiments. A second group of modules will allow students to conduct network protection and defense experiments.

When the project is completed, Xie will deliver the 12 lab modules to the NSA, where they will become part of a cybersecurity curriculum that will be accessible to the public.

Xie has an extensive body of published research and is known for his work in cybersecurity, network systems, data analytics, and social network analysis in bioinformatics. He holds a Ph.D. in computer science from the College of William and Mary.

Xie will develop the NetSiC lab in the NEXUS (Networked and Complex Systems Security Research) Lab at UA Little Rock. UALRnotes that UA Little Rock is among the institutions receiving the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defensedesignation. The joint program of the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security is designed to reduce information infrastructure vulnerability through higher education and research.

“By creating the NetSiC lab, Xie and his team aim to increase students’ knowledge of virtual networks and their ability to successfully protect and defend cloud networks,” UALR said.

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