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Robert Morris University Gets NSF Grant for Mobile Security Program

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Pittsburgh, July 29, 2015 – Robert Morris University will launch a program to train faculty and students in mobile Internet security thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation.

RMU will use the $224,000 grant to launch a Mobile Forensics and Security certificate program that students will be able to complete online to learn to secure and analyze mobile devices and networks against cyber crime. The grant will also fund a “train the trainer” initiative in which 40 computer and information systems faculty members will be trained to teach the certificate program to their own students.

Few people give much thought to how vulnerable their mobile devices are to theft and hacking, said Karen Paullet, assistant professor of computer and information systems at RMU. Paullet is directing the mobile security project at RMU along with Jamie Pinchot, associate professor of computer and information systems, and Sushma Mishra, assistant professor of computer and information systems.

Paullet notes that smartphone users perform sensitive tasks such as online banking over unsecured mobile networks.

“By jumping on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, you are enabling people to intercept your phone calls and intercept your text messages. People tend to keep their email logged on so that they receive instant alerts, making the information very easy to retrieve illicitly,” said Paullet.

Demand for employees trained in mobile security will outstrip the demand for traditional IT security staff, who are themselves in short supply, according to Jack Vrtar, manager of the IS Security Group at Westinghouse Electric Company. Vrtar said mobile devices are a boon for productivity but pose a security risk owing to employees’ personal devices as well as company-issued smartphones and tablets.

“The majority of malware being written today is targeting Android and other mobile devices. Existing security tools are minimally effective, and most people do not want to install basic security on their personal devices as it impacts usability,” said Vrtar. “Companies will need to invest in and adopt new security tools.”

Under the NSF grant, RMU will partner with Middle George State University and the Southeastern Advanced Cybersecurity Education Consortium to train 20 faculty in 2016 and 20 in 2017 to teach the mobile security certificate program. The consortium represents institutions that enroll many African American and rural college students, so the grant will help expand opportunities in IT for groups currently under-represented in the industry, said Paullet.

“We are excited with this excellent opportunity to partner with RMU. I am confident that this partnership will produce excellent forensics and cyber security education to the faculty, preparing them to train students to improve and protect the security of networks, information, and information systems,” said Alex Koohang, dean of the School of Information Technology at Middle Georgia State University.



Through 60 undergraduate and 20 graduate degree programs across five academic schools, Robert Morris University (RMU) in Pittsburgh, Pa., works to change its students' lives so that they can go out and change the lives of others for the better. More than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate, nontraditional and online students from 47 states and 39 nations are enrolled at RMU, which sits on 230 scenic acres just 20 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. Emphasizing experiential learning, Robert Morris focuses on professional development, service learning, global awareness, undergraduate research, campus leadership, and cultural experiences, all of which are documented on our innovative Student Engagement Transcript. More than 100 clubs and organizations help students to develop leadership skills, network professionally, and meet friends. RMU also has 16 NCAA Division I athletic programs, including football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s ice hockey, and men's and women's lacrosse.