Lyle receives cyber security donation

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The Lyle School of Engineering has received an $8 million donation to support a cyber security institute at the school.
Photo credit: Ellen Smith

SMU publicly announced its plans to get into cyber security last September with the installment of Dr. Fredrick R. Chang as Lyle’s Endowed Centennial Distinguished Chair in Cyber Security.

Funds to build a Cyber Security Institute in the school of engineering have finally become available thanks to a generous donation from billionaire Darwin Deason.

 

“I was absolutely delighted when I learned of Mr. Deason’s gift,” Chang said. “It is simply wonderful news for SMU, for Dallas and for the nation because of the importance of cyber security today.”

Deason donated nearly $8 million to support an institute for cyber security and innovation gym at SMU. About $3 million of his donation will support operational functions of the institute and gym that will eventually bear his name. The additional $5 million will support teaching, research and programming at the school.

“The Deason Institute will bring together some of the world’s best researchers to work on one of the most pressing problems of the next century,” said Lyle School Dean Marc Christensen. “This gift ensures that the Lyle School can sponsor challenging, creative programming.”

Christensen said the Deason Institute is currently being housed in Expressway Tower. Plans to move the Deason Institute to a permanent home on campus will be worked out in the coming years. The Innovation Gym already has permanent space on the first floor of Caruth Hall.

Computer science major Gavin Benedict considers Deason’s gift a definitive step in defining Lyle as one of the leading engineering schools in the country.

“It’s exciting not only as a CS major to see our department grow, but also to see a donation to support the Innovation Gymnasium,” he said. “It is one of the best, unique parts of SMU Lyle in my opinion.”

While the gym serves as a lab for students to learn how to solve cyber crime and prevent security breeches, the Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security will work toward developing a science of cyber security.

“The field today is playing ‘catch-up’ in that something bad has to happen and then we respond,” Chang said. “Our research will include a ‘problem-driven’ component as well as a more basic component… to [help] close the skills gap.”

In Deason’s day, there were limited options to learn about cyber security. The self-made billionaire built his computer services company, Affiliated Computer Services, from scratch and later sold it to Xerox for more than $6 billion in 2010.

“My business career was built on technology services, so clearly the issue of cyber security is something I take very seriously,” Deason said in a January press release. “The work of the institute will have a far-reaching impact.”

For Chang, that impact is needed now more than ever. Reflecting on the explosive growth of the Internet, he said cyber crime is inevitable. He hopes students across all disciplines will get involved in cyber security.

“Working in cyber security gives you a sense of working for something ‘larger than yourself.’ We are fighting cybercrime and each success makes you feel good about your work,” Chang said.

The Deason Institute will adopt an interdisciplinary approach to cybercrime. Students with interests in technology, criminology, social sciences, policy, law, business and more are encouraged to participate in the growing program.

For more information, contact the Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security at 214.768.3189.

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