Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

RIT gets $3.3 million donation from IBM for cybersecurity efforts

RIT gets $3.3 million donation from IBM for cybersecurity efforts

A more than $3.3 million gift from IBM has equipped RIT's Global Cybersecurity Institute Cyber Range and Training Center with some of the latest tools for cybersecurity experts. Photo by Elizabeth Lamark
A more than $3.3 million gift from IBM has equipped RIT’s Global Cybersecurity Institute Cyber Range and Training Center with some of the latest tools for cybersecurity experts. Photo by Elizabeth Lamark

IBM Corp. plans to make a more than $3.3 million in-kind donation to Rochester Institute of Technology to help enhance the cybersecurity capabilities in the university’s new Global Cybersecurity Institute.

The gift will enable RIT to enhance cybersecurity workforce development in the GCI’s Cyber Range and Training Center. The Cyber Range will offer immersive cyberattack training scenarios to help prepare professionals to respond more effectively to real-world cyberattacks.

The collaboration makes RIT the first university to license the IBM Security Command Cyber Range design and one of the first spaces to offer immersive cybersecurity simulations. RIT experts were inspired to go this route after visiting the IBM Cyber Range in Cambridge, Mass.

“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,” said 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.”

As part of the donation, IBM will contribute state-of-the-art software, IBM consulting services and access to curriculum and licenses to the GCI. IBM also will continue its commitment to the Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition, the top ethical hacking competition for college students, which is run by RIT. IBM will be the competition’s exclusive premier sponsor for the next five years, officials said.

“The work RIT is doing to equip future generations of cybersecurity talent is a critical facet of meeting growing demand in our field,” said Heather Ricciuto, academic and talent program manager for IBM Security. “This contribution and the ongoing collaboration between IBM and RIT can prepare learners with resources to gain experience, while also helping IBM connect with future skilled professions.”

The GCI Cyber Range will be equipped with IBM Security QRadar technology, which helps security teams accurately detect and prioritize threats across the enterprise. By consolidating data from thousands of devices, endpoints and applications distributed throughout the network, QRadar Security Information and Event Management correlates information and aggregates related events into single alerts, helping accelerate analysis and remediation.

“I’m excited because of how IBM QRadar technology connects with Watson artificial intelligence, allowing us to do a much deeper analysis of cyberattacks,” said Cyber Range Director Justin Pelletier. “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. Their donation to help train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals can have a long-term benefit to society as a whole.”

GCI organizers are creating different scenarios for organizations to come in and face-off against advanced persistent threats seeking to steal valuable information. For example, participants might have to defend the network of a medical center during a natural disaster or discover a malware attack that could impact millions of retail customers.

“These experiences will be varied and customized, so participants will never know exactly what to expect – just like real life,” Pelletier said.

To enhance the mood in the room, LED lights can be used during a training scenario as a welcoming blue to a stress-inducing flashing red. Rumbling speakers can be used to mimic disaster scenarios, while temperature controls can turn up the heat of the situation, officials noted.

The Cyber Range infrastructure already is being used for RIT’s Cybersecurity Bootcamp, a 15-week immersive training course that is helping people switch careers and join the cybersecurity workforce. The infrastructure also was used during the most recent Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition international finals in January. Student teams from 15 of the best cybersecurity colleges faced-off to see who was best at finding the vulnerable spots in complex computer networks. RIT’s student team placed first in the competition.

“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,” said 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 IBM gift is part of the university’s largest fundraising effort in history, Transforming RIT: The Campaign for Greatness. The $1 billion campaign recently surpassed the $750 million mark.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer