RIT’s cybersecurity institute bolstered by IBM gift

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The donation from IBM equips RIT’s Global Cybersecurity Institute Cyber Range and Training Center with some of the latest tools.
(Photo: Elizabeth Lamark/RIT)

Through a collaboration with IBM, Rochester Institute of Technology’s Global Cybersecurity Institute has become one of the first spaces to offer immersive cybersecurity simulations. The technology giant recently decided to make an in-kind donation of more than $3.3 million to the university. 

The gift, part of RIT’s $1 billion fundraising effort, Transforming RIT: The Campaign for Greatness, aims to expand GCI’s cybersecurity capabilities and to support security training and competitions for students. It also empowers RIT to enhance cybersecurity workforce development at GCI’s Cyber Range and Training Center. With immersive scenarios, the range will help prepare professionals to respond more effectively to real world cyberattacks.

“IBM is an industry leader in cybersecurity and so we definitely appreciate the support that IBM has shown and are incredibly excited to collaborate with industry experts to lead effective change in cybersecurity,” says Steve Hoover, the Katherine Johnson Executive Director of GCI. “Our mission at the GCI is to make our digital world and digital selves safer, and this donation really speaks to IBM’s shared commitment to that vision.”

RIT also is the first university to license the IBM Security Command Cyber Range design.

The GCI Cyber Range is being equipped with IBM Security QRadar technology, which helps security teams accurately detect and prioritize threats across the enterprise, enabling swift investigation and response to help reduce the impact of incidents, RIT says. 

IBM’s QRadar Security Information and Event Management System consolidates data within a network, correlates information and aggregates related events into single alerts, helping accelerate security incident analysis and remediation.

“I’m excited because of how IBM QRadar technology connects with Watson artificial intelligence, allowing us to do much deeper analysis of cyberattacks,” says Justin Pelletier, director of the Cyber Range and Training Center. “Plus, we’ll get to use IBM/i2 Analyst’s Notebook tool, which lets us graphically map cybersecurity data and perform network calculations that can uncover hidden connections.”

Experts who visited the IBM Cyber Range in Cambridge, Mass., decided to recreate the experience here. The immersive incident response experiences are currently under construction and GCI hopes to start offering training in the fall.

“The Cyber Range is going to allow us to create scenarios where non-technical professionals can come in and learn about the weaknesses in their systems and how to rectify those problems,” says Chad Weeden, director of esports and cybersecurity range at RIT. “We’re even integrating RIT’s strength in interactive games and media to create immersive stories where participants have to work together to solve the problems.”

The Cyber Range can offer a highly realistic simulation of a Security Operations Center licensed from IBM, which provides the ability to simulate complex global networks of up to 5,000 endpoints with realistic applications software and usage, RIT says. It can provide interactive, physically realistic experiences for more than 30 participants in the physical portion of the range, which has a video wall, a control room, a conference room, and electrostatic privacy glass walls. 

IBM’s donation also involves software, consulting services, and access to curriculum and licenses. The company plans to continue its commitment to the Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition. Run by RIT, the CPTC is an ethical hacking contest for students. IBM will be the CPTC’s exclusive premier sponsor for the next five years, officials say.

“We’ve been lucky enough to partner with RIT for the past six years to help up and coming professionals build their cyber skills through the CPTC event,” says Bob Kalka, global vice president for technical sales at IBM Security. “Our investment will help us to continue that partnership, while also providing quality technology and resources that will be instrumental in further developing the cybersecurity talent that is urgently needed across all industries.”

The cybersecurity services industry has been growing at a rapid clip, with North America holding the lion’s share of the market. A November 2020 report from the Business Research Company calls the United States the largest market, worth $21.14 billion in 2019. IBM is one of the dominant players.

At the same time, there is a huge demand for talented workers as cybercrimes escalate. CyberSeek, which offers data on supply and demand in the cybersecurity market, currently estimates that there are more than half a million job openings across the country.

The industry is waiting for the next generation of cybersecurity professionals. IBM’s donation to RIT could help close the gap.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

One thought on “RIT’s cybersecurity institute bolstered by IBM gift

  1. Cybersecurity in a very big deal. Our community should greatly appreciate this RIT expertise, and support RIT in these efforts in every way possible.

    Health data is among the most sensitive type of data, and it is also very valuable on the “black market” and the “grey market”. Yet the many people who need access to health data makes it vulnerable. This new technology sounds ideally suited to protecting data with so many user interfaces.

    Perhaps a partnership between our community health information systems and this Cybersecurity capability of RIT can be struck, creating mutual benefits. For example, Rochester has a large shared community health database at the Regional Healthcare Information Organization (RRHIO)which improves the efficiency and accuracy of health care data sharing, and prevents duplication of testing, etc. This jewel of local health care information must be protected.

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