Digital Combatants


Eastern students take on the cyber crooks.

 

A ransomware attack shuts down Colonial Pipeline, largest fuel supplier to the East Coast; a cryptocurrency heist drains $600 million from the accounts of the PolyNetwork blockchain site; a data breach exposes the personal information of 50 million T-Mobile account holders: These brazen cyberattacks, all pulled off within the last six months, underscore the extreme vulnerability of America’s — and the world’s —  digital infrastructure.   

Faculty and students in Eastern’s computer science and electrical engineering department, led by Stu Steiner, an assistant professor of computer science, are at the forefront of training those who can blunt the threat. The program’s cyber defense initiative, for example, has created regional partnerships that not only assess and secure critical infrastructure, but also provide real-time monitoring for regional municipalities. Among their many real-world interventions, Eagle students have already blocked Russian hackers from infiltrating the city of Spokane Valley’s computer network and have worked with Washington’s Office of the Secretary of State to ensure election security.

 

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency designated Eastern Washington University as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.


Such efforts are about the get a big boost. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency designated Eastern Washington University as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, a classification that will steer more federal resources into Eastern’s cybersecurity program.

EWU is the only four-year institution on the east side of the state of Washington to earn this classification. It means the university will be a validated cyber defense program of study through 2026. Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, NSA director and head of the U.S. Army’s Cyber Command, will present a certificate recognizing Eastern’s national center designation in the coming year.

In recognizing EWU’s program, NSA cited the university’s ability to meet the demands of the cyber defense field, one that faces a critical shortage of professionals with the skills to combat the growing threat from often state-supported cyber criminals. 

“Earning this federal recognition demonstrates how EWU is leading the region in developing cybersecurity professionals to help protect the critical infrastructure of the nation,” says Steiner.