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New USF think tank tackles cybersecurity challenges

Nearly 60 University of South Florida researchers from seven colleges convened in February for the Cybersecurity Think Tank meeting, which coincided with the public release of the 2024 Threat Assessment annual report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. 

“This meeting contributed greatly to the culture of collaboration at the University of South Florida,” said USF Research & Innovation Vice President Sylva Wilson Thomas.  “It also aligns well with USF’s research and innovation focus on global and national security, and the university’s new college of Cyber, AI, and Computing.  In addition, USF seeks to enhance its public-private partnerships to address critical societal challenges in these areas.”

Organized by the USF Research Development Institute (RDI) and supported by Cyber Florida, the Cybersecurity Think Tank was facilitated by Sriram Chellappan, a computer science and engineering professor and undergraduate program coordinator for cybersecurity in the College of Engineering, and Manish Agrawal, a professor in the Muma College of Business and former chair of the School of Information Systems and Management. Chellappan and Agrawal are also academic directors at Cyber Florida.

“The Cybersecurity Think Tank reflects our commitment to academic research in this important field,” said Ernie Ferrareso, director of Cyber Florida. “Advancing knowledge about cyber-related issues, particularly in regard to privacy and security, is central to our mission and critical to Florida and the nation’s security.”  

Discussions led by USF faculty members Rouzbeh Behnia, Bill Haley, Giti Javidi, Ruthmae Sears and Yu Sun focused on cybersecurity themes related to privacy and security across human behavior, older adults, cyber-physical IoT systems and K-12 education. For each theme, faculty experts, both in the room and virtually, huddled around white boards and laptops to discuss emerging ideas and potential strategies. 

“These meaningful conversations can pave the way for high-impact projects, raise the visibility of USF strengths, and identify strategies to ‘close the gaps’ or barriers to research and workforce development,” said RDI Director Sandra Justice. “We are going to organize more think tank meetings on different topics that will be scheduled several times a year.”

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