November 4, 2005
At a time when identity theft and network security issues are of growing concern to individuals and corporations around the globe, students at the University of Maine at Fort Kent are using leading technology to both learn about and, in the future, work to protect vitally important information.
Through the generosity of donations from two corporations and private citizens, Tony Gauvin, UMFK assistant professor of electronic commerce, has established the first Critical Information Assurance Group (CIAG) lab in Maine on the Fort Kent campus.
The facility, which is designed as a hands-on learning laboratory for students, houses state-of-the-art equipment used by information assurance professionals throughout the United States.
"With the Cisco & MBNA equipment donations, UMFK students will be able to get hands on eperience with the latest technology in Firewalls, Intrusion Detection, and Virtual Private networks. It will allow our students to gain knowledge in creating safe and secure networking and computing environments for their future employers," said Gauvin.
Gauvin has developed the CIAG facility on the ground floor of UMFK's Old Model School building, which houses several university classrooms and the campus Interactive Television (ITV) broadcast center.
He has filled what was once a storage space with equipment donated by Cisco Systems, Inc., a worldwide leader in networking for the Internet. Other donations have come from MBNA America and several private citizens.
The facility is being used by Gauvin this semester to teach a computer forensics course primarily for students enrolled in UMFK's rural public safety administration program and for computer science majors. Students skilled in computer forensics are in top demand.
In the future, the CIAG lab will be used to support classes in networking, security, forensics and cryptography.
"The creation of labs like UMFK's CIAG Lab represents a new paradigm for computer science education where student extend their knowledge of the negative implications of malicious software and behaviors through explorations and hands-on experimentation. The Cisco equipment allows the creation of an instructional sandbox where students (and faculty) can freely experiment with possibly malicious software without danger of releasing the software 'into the wild'," said Gauvin. "Many of the issues discussed in Information Assurance Education are often only discussed as theoretical constructs due to the inability to provide supporting experiential learning, this CIAG lab changes all that. Through first hand experience with the various techniques the hackers and terrorists use to disrupt America's critical infrastructure, UMFK graduates will able to better defend America's most vital resource - information!"
The idea for a CIAG lab at UMFK was first conceived by Gauvin in the summer of 2003, when he attended a prestigious information security summer institute at Purdue University.
Gauvin and his UMFK colleague Raymond Albert, professor of computer science, were among only 13 faculty members from colleges and universities around the country invited to participate in the information assurance education graduate certificate program at Purdue's Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS).
CERIAS is one of the world's leading centers for research and education in areas of information security that are crucial to the protection of critical computing and communication infrastructure.
It was while attending the CERIAS program that Gauvin met Jessica Kalimon of the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Group at Cisco Systems. Kalimon informed Gauvin about the education program directed by her department at Cisco, which assists university professors and faculty in the development of strong information security and information assurance curriculums.
Through the initial conversations at CERIAS and in correspondence afterwards, Gauvin was able to secure an equipment donation to establish UMFK's own CIAG lab.
Establishment of the facility is seen by Gauvin as the critical next step in UMFK's continuing efforts to be among the top schools in the nation at the forefront of integrating a new curriculum that addresses the growing issue of security of information and data in an era of burgeoning technology.
Information assurance refers to the people, hardware, software, policies and procedures that protect information systems. It is an area that has become recognized as a critical issue of importance in the wake of events, including September 11, and ongoing issues such as identity theft.
Government, military and commercial agencies have a great need for college graduates with knowledge and skills in computer and network security, cryptography and security violation detection and response.
For more information on information assurance education opportunities at UMFK, visit the website at www.umfk.maine.edu/academics/programs/cos/about/.