By Sarah Wang | Personal editor
The Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC) is building a cybersecurity suite at its facilities, which is expected to be completed by spring 2023.
The BRIC provides a research space where scientists, engineers and Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science have the opportunity to work together to innovate.
According to Jeff Donahoo, Director of Research and Development, cybersecurity is an important topic as people become increasingly dependent on digital infrastructure and personal information.
“Cybersecurity is really about providing protection and resilience in response to breaches,” Donahoo said.
Donahoo also said that the Cyber Lab and Cyber Research and Range Facility will approach cybersecurity from two different angles. One angle will aim to train future leaders from various disciplines to respond to cybersecurity threats. The other will try to develop new and improved techniques to respond to cybersecurity threats.
According to Shaun Hutton, clinical associate professor of computer science, the name of the facility will most likely be the Central Texas Cyber Range. He also said the reason the cybersecurity suite’s name won’t be “Baylor Cyber Range” is because it’s a partnership between McLennan County and the university, and the Funding for the project comes from both.
Hutton, who is also executive director of the cybersecurity suite under construction, said the idea to formulate a cybersecurity suite existed before he joined Baylor in 2020 and came from Donahoo and acting dean and professor Erich Baker. However, the presence of COVID-19 and other factors had hampered the project.
Hutton said building the cybersecurity line is part of realizing Baylor’s Illuminate vision in data science, particularly in cybersecurity.
Although there are cyber ranges in other places in Texas, there are not many in central Texas, which is one of the factors driving the build of the cyber security suite.
“It also positions us well to offer something unique for the Central Texas region in terms of offering research, education and training capabilities,” Hutton said. “The purpose of this facility will be to accomplish both research in the area of cybersecurity and to help us train the two students here at Baylor, also at MCC, but also for the community at large.”
Donahoo said this facility is important to the university for research and teaching purposes.
“In the past, we’ve done things like training law enforcement for personal safety from a cybersecurity perspective, non-disclosure of information, etc.,” Donahoo said. “It’s interesting for the community.
Another aspect of this project, Donahoo says, is enabling cross-disciplinary groups to come together, research effective ways to achieve cybersecurity and build resilience.
“The bad guys are always trying to improve their abilities and skills, and the good guys here at Baylor and at this BRIC facility have to focus on that as well so the bad guys don’t get ahead of themselves,” Donahoo said.
Hutton said expanding the cybersecurity workforce, which is a priority for the nation, is another goal of the project.
“Globally, there are different estimates, but somewhere in the range of over three million open jobs that go unfilled in cybersecurity across the world,” Hutton said. “There are plenty of jobs, even in Texas alone, that need to be filled in cybersecurity.”
According to Hutton, implementing this facility presents several challenges, including long-term funding and the sustenance of the facility. He said that to pursue this mission, they will have to organize camps and competitions, which in turn will create the need to recruit and attract talent.
“There’s a lack of adequately trained cybersecurity professionals, so we’re trying to train a lot of people in cybersecurity,” Hutton said.
Hutton said the team is trying to help educate people on the different scenarios they might encounter so that eventually businesses and individuals are well prepared.
The facility aims to be completed in early spring 2023. Hutton said he expects student participation upon completion.
“We’ll be using this facility to help our cyber team, so we have a cyber team that’s competing,” Hutton said.
Hutton said that in the future, he envisions the facility hosting an interdisciplinary cybersecurity competition and using the space to host national competitions.