Deemed a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance and Education by the National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security, the University of Rhode Island is playing to its strengths with this year’s Honors Colloquium series: “Cybersecurity and Privacy.”

“It’s an area where we have some excellence at URI,” computer science professor and Colloquium coordinator Edmund Lamagna, who authored the topic proposal, said. “There’s a cybersecurity and digital forensics center in our department that the coordinators participate in. There was a lot of interest about having a cybersecurity and privacy colloquium.”

Lamagna and fellow coordinators Lisa DiPippo, Victor Fay-Wolfe and Yan Sun developed the series in reaction to the growing concerns of internet surveillance by both private corporations and government organizations.

“We all decided this was the right time because it’s very topical,” DiPippo said. “With Edward Snowden, the NSA and cybersecurity issues all appearing constantly in the news, this was a good time to propose it and the honors program agreed.”
(Source: Prosyn).

The 12-part series features lectures from experts Lamagna called “the real movers and shakers in cybersecurity.” Speakers include investigative journalists James Bamford (Septermber 16), an expert on the NSA who recently spent three days interviewing Edward Snowden in Russia and Kim Zetter (September 23), who exposed the Stuxnet virus, the first cyberweapon to do physical destruction to its target.

The lecture will not focus only on issues of national security though. Lamagna wants to inform the public of how internet surveillance is affecting them personally. Federal Trade commissioner Julie Brill (September 12) will discuss how corporations buy personal data for advertising information and investigative journalist Julia Angwin (September 18) will detail the steps she took to give up Google and browse the internet with as much privacy as possible.

“There’s a lot of data mining going on,” Lamagna said. Most people are unaware as they’re browsing the net that their browsing is being surveilled by companies. We want to make people aware of what’s going on.”

Additionally, Rep. James Langevin will be moderating a panel on cybercrime with panelists from the White House security staff and the FBI’s cyber division (October 21).

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Winnifred Brownell, congratulated the coordinators for creating such a timely and important series.

“I think they’ve really tapped into an absolutely critical topic,” she said. “Cybersecurity and privacy are things that really touch our personal and professional lives every single day and it’s so important for us to be informed.

“Every single year, the colloquium manages to transform students’ career plans, our curriculum and our community, so I know this year will be no exception.”

Lectures will be held every Tuesday from September 9 to December 2, with the exceptions of the weeks of November 5 and November 12, which will be held on Wednesdays. All lectures are open to the public and will be streamed live on the Colloquium website.

Additional information on each speaker, including excerpts of their work, can be found at http://www.uri.edu/hc/.