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WVU to establish innovative cybersecurity education, training facility

An illustration showing people sitting in rows at computers in a computer lab. There is a world map on the wall in front of them.

With funding from the U.S. Department of Education, WVU will create a cutting-edge cybersecurity range to educate and train students to handle ever-evolving cyberthreats. (WVU Illustration/Savanna Leech)

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With the ongoing threat of cyberattacks becoming more sophisticated, West Virginia University is launching plans for a cybersecurity range — a specialized software and hardware facility for education, training and research — with $750,000 in grant funding support from the U.S. Department of Education.

Katerina Goseva-Popstojanova, a professor in the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, will oversee the facility at the WVU Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources along with Anurag Srivastava, department chair. Also managing the site, in collaboration with Amazon Web Services, will be Tom Devine, teaching assistant professor, David Krovich, research associate, and Brian Woerner, professor.

The funding is part of a congressionally directed spending package for West Virginia.

“With this grant, we’re creating a cutting-edge, cloud-based cyber range to train more cybersecurity students,” Srivastava said. “This initiative is a significant leap forward for our program. We’re immensely grateful for this support, which will empower our students with the skills they need to excel in the cybersecurity landscape.” 

One part of the cyber range will be hosted on an AWS Outpost and will allow for research and teaching. It will also support enhancing the industrial control system security lab as well as a network operations center for networking internet of things devices.

IoT devices are digital hardware items like sensors, gadgets and controller ties with appliances or machines that are programmed for certain applications that transmit data via the internet or other networks. The facility will also act as a ‘sandbox’ environment. In cybersecurity, a sandbox is an isolated environment on a network that emulates an operating system for the user. It can be used to run experiments safely without risk of security threats to the host device or network, preventing malicious activities from spreading.

“Everything is done in a secure and responsible way,” Goseva-Popstojanova said. “For cybersecurity we must, even for regular classes, include hands-on experiences for students which will experiment with malware.”

This is where the sandbox comes in — students can get hands-on experience at the cyber range and learn how to safely work with and handle cyberthreats and attacks.

Goseva-Popstojanova said that keeping up with the pace of that ever-changing landscape is important, both for education and research. Funding these resources allows students and faculty to do research with the latest technology. 

“There is such a great need for cybersecurity experts in many industries,” she said. “There are many unfilled positions. Students who have hands-on experience with cutting-edge hardware and software are prepared for successful careers in industry.”

Goseva-Popstojanova said cyberattacks from malicious actors are getting more sophisticated every day, keeping cyber defense strategists on alert. “Threats keep evolving all the time and you must have the latest technology to be able to keep up and experiment with it and develop research solutions,” she said.



Director of Marketing and Communications
WVU Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources

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