Fighting Cybercrime


Fighting Cybercrime
From left: Courtney Pledger, Stephen Addison, Houston Davis and Asa Hutchinson. (Sarah Campbell-Miller)

The timing was right for last week’s announcement of the creation of a “cyber range” at the University of Central Arkansas. A cyber range, according to Arkansas Business’ Sarah Campbell-Miller, is “a dedicated computer system that can simulate a computer network. Students use the network to learn in real time how to detect and fend off cyberattacks and how to anticipate unknown threats.”

The cyber range will be used to train students in kindergarten through college in cybersecurity and will be funded using a $500,000 state grant.

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The cyber range will complement UCA’s new bachelor’s degree program in cybersecurity, which is expected to begin accepting students in the fall of 2018. UCA and the Arkansas Educational Television Network are partnering to develop cybersecurity, coding, computer programming, computer science and other curricula in Arkansas schools.

“The threat from cybercrimes is very real,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in announcing the grant. “It is a threat to our country” and to “every industry group.”

The announcement of the cyber range is cybersecurity good news, coming as it does just weeks after several examples of cybersecurity bad news: the hack of credit-reporting company Equifax, which exposed the personal information of 145 million Americans; the hack of the federal Securities & Exchange Commission; and the revelation that the hack of a billion Yahoo email accounts was actually three times that big.

Stephen Addison, dean of UCA’s College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics, noted that cybersecurity is a fast-growing field; the Wall Street Journal has reported that unfilled cybersecurity jobs are expected to number 1.8 million by 2022, up 20 percent from 2015.

The governor, who has made computer science education a priority, is right. The threat from cybercrime is very real. Arkansas’ effort to develop cybercrime fighters is good not just for the students who will benefit from jobs in the field, but for everyone.