By April Marciszewski
World Staff Writer
A new Institute for Information Security, or iSec, is available to the
University of Tulsa officials think they have one of the best
information security programs in the world, but few people know it.
For the past dozen years, professors and students working for TU's
Center for Information Security have mostly done top-secret work for the
federal government, so they could not tell anyone about their
accomplishments and expertise.
Now, TU has turned the center into the Institute for Information
Security, or iSec, and is putting an emphasis on working for the private
"Now we can tell the world who we are and where we're going and, at the
same time, tell the world Tulsa's a great place to start a business," TU
Trustee Jim McGill said.
TU officials want private companies to know they can take advantage of
the researchers' expertise.
McGill already has seen TU graduates form information security
companies, and he thinks the institute can further boost economic
development in Tulsa, in the same way university research boosted Boston
and Austin, Texas, and created the Silicon Valley.
"Why can't the Arkansas Valley be the information security valley?" he
In the 1920s and '30s, TU's petroleum engineering program was the best
in the world, McGill said, and it populated Tulsa with people with
doctorates and high incomes.
"Let's go do it again with information security," he said.
McGill said he hopes iSec will work with the proposed city of Tulsa
Innovation Institute, a business incubator. TU could build a classified
research facility at the Innovation Institute so start-up companies
could grow quickly.
TU's institute is expected to improve Tulsa's economy in another way.
Many of the students who worked in the Center for Information Security
have moved to Washington, D.C., for government jobs, but the institute's
work with private companies will keep more graduates in Tulsa, said
computer science doctoral student Nakeisha Schimke.
For the information security center to become an institute "is a huge
move," she said.
Schimke earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at TU, went to work
for Williams Power Co. and decided to return to TU this fall for her
doctorate in computer science because she considers its security program
one of the best in the country.
One of iSec's plans is to find out where graduates who worked in the
center are working now and how much they are making so TU can assess how
successful its program is, said Gavin Manes, a research assistant
professor with the institute and founder of Oklahoma Digital Forensics
Most graduates go to work for the National Security Agency, and many
move on to higher-paying jobs in the private sector.
Unlike the center, the institute will be able to have faculty of its
own, Manes said. Computer science faculty made up the center, but the
institute will expand to include electrical and mechanical engineering
faculty. An executive director will be hired shortly, and McGill expects
iSec to eventually have its own building on the TU campus.
McGill and computer science professor Mauricio Papa said the need for
information security will continue to increase.
McGill said computers will be the size of cell phones in five years,
will be portable and will connect to computer screens and keyboards.
That means a company's knowledge and secrets will walk out the door
every time an employee carries the computer to lunch or home for the
Tulsa already has one company, Digital Enterprise Security Associates,
founded by TU graduate Jerald Dawkins, that certifies computer
applications as secure.
Papa conducts research in computer security for the oil and gas
For three years, he has been working to improve security in devices that
control variables such as flow, temperature and pressure at refineries,
oil rigs and pipelines.
Security tools have to be specially designed for such environments. Papa
hopes his research eventually can be applied to electric companies and
water treatment plants, which also use process-control systems.
As computer systems become more complex, vulnerabilities can become
easier for attackers to find, Papa said.
"I don't think this is an issue that will disappear in the next few
years," he said.
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