Three of the largest research universities in Oregon have teamed up to launch the Oregon Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, with the goal of improving Oregon’s resilience to cyberattacks.

The center will be run jointly by the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, and Portland State University, which will host the center. The universities noted that the new center was created by the passage of House Bill 2049, which was signed into law by Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek in July 2023.

“HB 2049 marks a significant stride in fortifying Oregon’s digital defense by establishing the Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, a hub for enhancing cybersecurity expertise and resources across public, private and educational sectors,” said the bill’s co-sponsor state Sen. Aaron Woods. “The center will boost Oregon’s cybersecurity workforce and help fortify Oregon against evolving digital threats.”

According to a press release, the center will serve as an advisory body to the governor and state legislature, and will help coordinate cybersecurity workforce development, education, awareness and training across the state. The center also will address the unmet needs of regional and local government agencies, special districts, school districts and libraries.

The universities developed a charter for the center late last year and the schools said the center’s activities are expected to begin this month.

“Cyberattacks hit public agencies, private businesses and individuals daily,” said state Rep. Nancy Nathanson, who co-sponsored the bill. “Malicious actors are demanding ransom payment in exchange for access to stolen data. Oregon school districts, cities and businesses aren’t just vulnerable, they are being attacked.”

“Universities are uniquely positioned to establish or extend relationships with various stakeholders and collectively offer the required expertise and experiences to support, coordinate and execute a wide range of envisioned activities to address cybersecurity challenges across the state,” said Reza Rejaie, a professor and head of the Department of Computer Science at the UO, who will serve as an associate director.

Rakesh Bobba, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Oregon State University, will also serve as an associate director.

“It is also helpful that the three schools, and the people involved, work incredibly well together — it is a great team,” Bobba said. “I’m especially excited by the workforce development opportunities in cybersecurity the center will help create and the direct impact this will have on improving Oregon’s cybersecurity posture.”

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