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NSF Grant Awarded to School of Business

Local governments can be attractive targets for cyber criminals who might be looking for citizen data such as social security numbers or, even worse, trying to disrupt plugged in and networked public systems–think water supply or traffic lights.

Help is on the way for city and county public agencies that are increasingly threatened by cyberattacks.

Under a new program funded by a $300,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, George Mason’s School of Business and Volgenau School of Engineering will work with cities and counties to strengthen cybersecurity governance and to develop cybersecurity education modules and reference materials specifically targeting the needs of local governments.

resizer2Principal investigators for the grant are J.P. Auffret (left), director of Research Partnerships at the School of Business, and Angelos Stavrou (below right), director of the Center for Assurance Research and Engineering (CARE) at the Volgenau School of Engineering.

“Local governments present a complex cybersecurity landscape,” said Auffret. “They can vary widely in their staffing, expertise and budget.”

The grant calls for research on paths for city and country collaboration on cybersecurity (“cross jurisdictional sharing”) and on best practices for local government cybersecurity especially for localities with limited budgets and cybersecurity expertise.   In addition, the grant calls for the creation of regional workshops and education and learning modules for city and county executives. The researchers also plan to support development of a Local Government Cybersecurity Toolkit, covering relevant cybersecurity leadership and governance issues.

Because local governments, unlike businesses, do not compete with each other, they are able work together to pool resources and expertise, says Auffret. With this in mind, Mason researchers will advance efficient methods for sharing cybersecurity best practices across local government jurisdictions.

Angelos Stavrou, ISE“City and county cybersecurity is an important, but under focused, aspect of our national cybersecurity strategy,” said Stavrou. “Local systems can significantly impact the larger, connected state and national systems.”

For example, counties own 45 percent of the U.S. road miles and 40 percent of the bridges, in addition to operating 30 percent of public airports and 1,550 health departments.

The new grant is the second cybersecurity-related award by the NSF to the School of Business and the Volgenau School of Engineering. Another research project, announced in 2013 and finishing this year, provided $500,000 to develop chief information security officer (CISO) core competencies and then apply the results to establish learning objectives and curricula guidelines for cybersecurity leadership education programs.

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Mary Crowson

Mary Crowson is a program operations specialist for the Research Partnerships and Grants Initiative within George Mason's School of Business.

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