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UTSA gets $3 million grant to combat cyber attacks

UTSA gets $3 million grant to combat cyber attacks
UTSA gets $3 million grant to combat cyber attacks 

By Melissa Ludwig
Express-News Staff

The University of Texas at San Antonio is receiving $3 million from the 
Department of Homeland Security to teach local communities how to handle 
a cyber attack on critical computer systems like the ones that control 
power grids and 911 call centers.

The three-year, $3 million competitive training grant is part of a 
homeland security initiative to train state and local governments to 
prevent and respond to catastrophic disasters, including terrorism.

"We are excited that the Homeland Security Department recognized UTSA as 
having something unique here to offer," said Greg White, director of the 
Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security, UTSA's 5-year-old 
entree into cyber-security research.

The CIAS has already developed the training program and has conducted 
exercises in Texas, Ohio and Virginia, White said. With additional 
money, they can expand the program's scope.

San Antonio will also be home to a study of freedom of information laws 
around the country designed to see how well states are doing when it 
comes to safeguarding information about infrastructure and cyber 
security. That study, to be conducted by the St. Mary's University 
Center for Terrorism Law, is being administered by the Air Force and 
paid for with a $1 million Defense Department grant.

The UTSA grant's origins lie in San Antonio, where the CIAS staged its 
first dark screen exercise in 2002, White said. For that exercise, they 
rounded up 200 folks from all sectors of the community, including city 
and county workers, people from the water and power utilities and from 
military and local industries.

White gathered them in a room in the basement of the Alamodome and posed 
them with a fictional problem: What would you do if you were under cyber 
attack by a group that was angry about the freezing of terrorist assets? 
What if the attackers hacked into the 911 system and re-routed calls? 
What if emergency operations went dark?

"Few communities are looking at the possibility of a cyber event, which 
could have a catastrophic impact on a city," White said. In the past, he 
said, Homeland Security has been criticized for not doing enough to 
prevent cyber attack, instead focusing on response to physical attacks 
from bombs, biological warfare or nuclear weapons.

"We should be worrying about this too," White said.

The highest rates of hacking are against critical infrastructure 
systems, and America is the biggest target for such attacks, he said.  
Last year, the Air Force expanded its mission to include not just air 
and space, but cyber space as well.

"You have different levels of threats: cyber terrorism, cyber crime, 
cyber vandalism," White said. "If I am sharing information (with other 
sectors of the community), we can identify what kind of attack it is and 

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