Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Q&A: Nicole Beebe, UTSA Cyber Center for Security and Analytics

Q&A: Nicole Beebe, UTSA Cyber Center for Security and Analytics

Texas Monthly named UTSA cybersecurity professor and researcher Nicole Beebe one of the state's top innovators.

(Feb. 7, 2018) -- Nicole Beebe is the director of the UTSA Cyber Center for Security and Analytics. She specializes in digital forensics, a branch of cybersecurity that involves the recovery and investigation of material found in digital devices.

This month, Beebe was named by Texas Monthly as one of “15 Innovators Reshaping Texas.” As one of the leaders of the cybersecurity revolution in San Antonio, Beebe is engaged in several research projects, including one for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that is aimed at strengthening insider threat detection. She also oversees the UTSA Cyber Center for Security and Analytics, part of one of most highly-regarded cybersecurity programs in the country.

We sat down with Dr. Beebe to learn about new developments in cybersecurity.

What is the most important thing happening in your field that no one is talking about but should be?

I’m not suggesting no one is talking about this, but surely not enough people are talking about the impending disaster of a teacher shortage in cybersecurity. The field is frequently highlighting the roughly two million workforce shortage in cybersecurity that we will all be feeling the effects of in two to three years. And, we are doing a good job at getting students interested in cybersecurity, as evidenced by the exploding enrollments in cybersecurity at UTSA and other universities.

But what people aren’t talking about enough, and what we are already experiencing, is a shortage of quality folks at all levels to train and educate students in cybersecurity. It’s a real issue, and with negative unemployment in cybersecurity and folks earning very high wages outside of education, it is hard to recruit folks to teach.

How does interdisciplinary work help research efforts in your field?

Interdisciplinary work doesn’t just help research efforts in cybersecurity, it’s a flat-out necessity. Cybersecurity is an extremely diverse field from highly technical sub-domains like cryptography, access control and digital forensics to non-tech domains such as law, policy, behavior and risk.

Not only is the field wide, both the threats and our defenses are multi-dimensional – solutions brought to bear from the perspective of only one discipline leave gaping holes in security. You can’t truly solve cybersecurity challenges without interdisciplinary collaboration and solutions.

Have you had any mentors? How does their guidance inform what you do now?

I have had the great fortune of many mentors over the years. Some have been specifically cybersecurity-oriented. Other have been professional or personal mentors. Mentors are very important – whether formal or simply successful people you identify to “study” and emulate. When you pay attention to successful people and take the time to really understand why they’re successful, you can learn a great deal.

What advice do you have for this generation of students?

Get involved and make cybersecurity an intellectual hobby and social club. There are so many opportunities for students to engage in cybersecurity with others outside the classroom, from competitions and challenges, to clubs, meet-ups, blogs and boards.

What makes The Cyber Center for Security & Analytics unique?

We pride ourselves on our strong relationship with researchers across a wide variety of disciplines both internal and external to UTSA. This allows us to leverage the gamut of cyber and analytics subject matter expertise as we tackle real-world problems. Our multi-disciplinary approach to developing high-impact, applied research brings together great minds from fields such as business, cybersecurity, information systems, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, mechanical engineering, statistics, management science, criminal justice, psychology and others. These partnerships really help us affect change for industry and government partners and enhance UTSA’s educational programs in cyber and analytics.

- Joanna Carver


Learn more about Nicole Beebe.

Explore cybersecurity at UTSA.

Learn more about The Cyber Center for Security and Analytics

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