New Institute for Cyber Security advances research, development of security technologies

* In November, the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) launched its Internet security incubator

In November, the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) launched its new Internet security incubator at the Institute for Cyber Security (ICS). The incubator was developed to commercialize promising technologies that address major cyber security and privacy issues - perhaps issues that your organization struggles with daily. The technologies under development are expected to help secure business and military applications.

In a campus computer science lab, students are doing research and development on advanced cybersecurity technologies. Professors and technical advisors are helping to commercialize the results of the R&D, intent on creating viable digital security products. Experienced business leaders are nurturing the budding companies that will bring the new solutions to market. Venture capitalists and angel investors are sniffing around for their next big opportunity. And the state government and the U.S. Department of Defense are solidly behind the efforts to make this new incubator, and the Institute for Cyber Security (ICS) as a whole, successful.

If this sounds like your typical Silicon Valley university research center and technology incubator, think again. This isn’t Stanford University, or University of California at Santa Cruz, or any of the other schools in the shadows of the tech giants. In fact, this brand new cybersecurity center isn’t in Silicon Valley at all. Instead, it’s deep in the heart of …Texas.

In November, the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) launched its new Internet security incubator at the Institute for Cyber Security. The incubator was developed to commercialize promising technologies that address major cybersecurity and privacy issues—perhaps issues that your organization struggles with daily.

Now you might not think of Texas as a hotbed for technology development. (I didn’t, and I’ve lived in Texas for nearly three decades.) But I’ve come to learn that Texas is the ideal climate for new tech ventures. Consider this:

* In 2005, the Texas legislature authorized $200 million for the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, a pool of funds set aside for investment in promising technology companies.

* Because of their vast array of high tech companies, the Austin area is nicknamed the “Silicon Hills” and the north Dallas area is the “Silicon Prairie.”

* If Texas were an independent nation, it would have the 12th largest economy in the world.

* Despite our poor economy (or perhaps because of it), Texas leads the country in job creation, gross state product, a low unemployment rate, and foreign direct investment.

* CNBC has proclaimed that Texas is America's Top State for Business and Chief Executive Officer magazine recently named Texas the Best State to Do Business for the third year in a row.

What’s more, San Antonio, Texas is an important center of operations for the Department of Defense. So, with a million dollar investment from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, the incubator arm of the ICS at the University of San Antonio was born.

The ICS has a mission of world class research, with commercialization. The Institute is led by renowned scholar Dr. Ravi Sandhu and is staffed by leading researchers and senior software architects who are immersed in emerging Internet security issues. The Institute consists of three units: ICS Labs, a nationally reputed center for academic research; ICS Incubator which has been established with a mission to make San Antonio a fertile breeding ground for security companies; and the ICS Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security (CIAS), which focuses on solutions for the nation’s homeland security needs. Several research projects are underway.

One research project that is being worked in cooperation with the Air Force is a way to share critical information in a secure fashion. Traditionally, the military has shared information on a “need to know” basis. Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, U.S. military branches as well as law enforcement agencies have been instructed to share vital security information with each other. Research is being done on the best ways to move information from “need to know” status to “need to share,” albeit in a secure manner. Once commercialized, this technology could have applications in business as well, as two or more companies in a business ecosystem seek secure ways to share critical but confidential information.

A second project is underway with an entity called Denim Labs, a spinoff from the consulting firm Denim Group. This project entails developing technology that automatically protects Web applications built with the PHP scripting language from security attacks. ICS is contributing its in-depth knowledge of security techniques to the development effort.

And ICS is providing R&D services to yet another early-stage company, SafeMashups. The intent of this technology is to secure Web 2.0 mashups in both the consumer and enterprise space. SafeMashups has been part of the UTSA incubator since August 2008, and it’s possible this company could launch its technology sometime in the first half of 2009.

I’m excited about the prospects ahead for this Institute of Cyber Security. Not only will we benefit by having exciting new technology developed into commercial products with business applications, but we’ll also train the next generation of developers that will work on cutting-edge security products for years to come.

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