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WVU hosts first regional workshop on Big Data, cybersecurity

Stephanie Beck Roth gives her presentation at the first regional workshop on big data and cybersecurity

Stephanie Beck Roth


Office of Personnel Management. JPMorgan Chase. Internal Revenue Service. These are but three of the growing number of organizations that have fallen victim to cyberattacks in recent years. In 2014 alone, more than one billion personal records were illegally accessed — including health, financial, email and home address data, and other personal information like Social Security numbers. A study by IBM found the average consolidated total cost of a data breach is $3.8 million, representing a 23 percent increase since 2013.

Increasingly, organizations are turning to Big Data analytics tools, which combine machine learning, text mining and conceptual modeling, as the first line of defense against future attacks.

A recent workshop, hosted by  West Virginia University, brought together experts in Big Data and cybersecurity to address the research and workforce development needs of the region.

According to  Brian Woerner, chair of the  Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at WVU, the workshop, which included representatives from Marshall University, Shepherd University, the University of Charleston,  Potomac State College of WVU and Indiana University of Pennsylvania, grew out of an earlier meeting that was held at the Allegany Ballistics Lab in Rocket Center. The ABL University Consortium Summit was coordinated by Dextera Corporation, which provides professional services to government customers and contractors.

ABL is owned by the Naval Sea Command, or NAVSEA, and is home to several organizations that are involved in the management, processing and archiving of data, including a rapidly growing IBM presence. It is also home to an Innovative Solution Center for Watson, IBM's cloud-based cognitive platform.

"ABL brought together a broad section of regional universities to share their capabilities for supporting workforce development and collaborative engagement in the emerging fields of Big Data and cybersecurity," Woerner said. "After listening to the capabilities of the various universities from around this region that attended, it became apparent that we could better address these needs by working in collaboration."

Managing large sets of information, using that information to make decisions and protecting the security of that information is a core function of an increasing number of commercial and government organizations in West Virginia. Woerner noted that the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Systems, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA's Independent Verification & Validation unit, and the Green Bank National Observatory and their commercial contractors all deal with large sets of data.

"Training workers and providing cutting-edge research will be crucial to growing this new industry in the Mountain State," Woerner said.

"This relationship is important to the West Virginia National Guard because we are trying to grow our own cyber workforce," said Major Jody Ogle. "We are seeking strategic partnerships with educational institutions as well as governmental partners. We have a keen interest in the way that our current and future members are educated in that there is a direct impact on our ability to employ their skills."

"This event and future collaboration events are important to our client, NAVSEA, and Dextera because this will help establish a network of team members necessary to solve problems in support of the Department of Defense's mission," said Dave Porter, business consultant, NAVSEA support, Dextera Corporation. "The goal is to establish a public/private partnership that leverages academia, private industry and federal government partners, which team to provide solutions to DoD's real-world Big Data and cybersecurity issues."

"In our technology driven world, data is being analyzed to make numerous business decisions and Big Data technologies play a central role," said Stephanie Beck Roth, assistant professor of mathematics at PSC. "Job seekers that are capable of manipulating, understanding and analyzing this data are in high demand. We view this consortium as an excellent venue to support the development of new student educational programs at PSC as well as an opportunity for faculty to collaborate and support the needs of other organizations in our region.

IBM has participated in the ABL University Consortium initiative since its inception and brings expertise in Big Data and cybersecurity.

"IBM will continue to engage with the workshop participants to identify areas for potential collaboration to advance the Big Data and cybersecurity capabilities in support of the DOD mission," said Timi Hadra, ABL facility leader for IBM Global Business Services.

Gene Cilento, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at WVU, noted that next steps for the group would be to develop collaborative research proposals to seek external funding sources for this work and for academic programs that meet industry needs for workforce development, degree programs and leading-edge research and development.

"We see this as the start of a major, collaborative effort, which WVU will lead and expand upon in the coming year," Cilento said.



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