UNCW Maritime Cyberdefense Program To Receive $625K In Federal Funding

By Audrey Elsberry, posted Apr 12, 2024
UNCW is slated to receive federal funding for cybersecurity research to further strengthen the security of the country's maritime transportation system. (Photo courtesy of UNCW)
The University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Cyber Defense Education secured $625,000 in federal dollars, the university announced Thursday.

With help from U.S. Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC), UNCW is slated to receive funding from the federal budget for the 2024 fiscal year. The money will fund a research project entitled “Maritime Cyber Security: Standards Advancement, Research, and Workforce Development,” according to the university’s release.

Cyberdefense professor Ulku Clark and College of Science and Engineering Dean Ron Vetter will serve as co-principal investigators for the project.

“That could be something that we can really make a name for ourselves,” Vetter said in an interview with the Business Journal last month, “especially since we have the Center for Marine Science already here.”

UNCW’s cyberdefense program, which includes a cybersecurity major, minor, concentration and graduate certificate, combines the forces of the Cameron School of Business and the College of Science and Engineering. The research project team will also consist of members of both colleges.

The momentum behind strengthening maritime cybersecurity comes from Presidential Policy Directive 21, which identifies 16 sectors as critical infrastructure. In this case, the maritime subsector of the transportation sector comes into play. The Biden Administration’s executive order in February added a layer of timeliness to UNCW’s marine cybersecurity focus, as the president also demonstrated a keen focus on securing the nation’s port systems.

Issues UNCW’s added funding can help address include the cybersecurity professional shortage, which the university is already working to mitigate, risk assessment, remediation plan development and developing national standards within the industry, according to the release.

“It is important that UNCW has the resources to expand their maritime cybersecurity research and education program, and I was pleased to help during the appropriations process for fiscal year 2024,” Rouzer said in the release. “As cyber threats increase, UNCW will continue to lead the way in training the highly skilled workforce defending our nation’s maritime industry against cyber-attacks threatening our supply chains.” 
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