The director of the University of West Florida’s Center for Cybersecurity has been named by Governor DeSantis to a state task force on cybersecurity. “I’m truly honored to be nominated to serve on the cybersecurity task force for the state of Florida. It’s great for higher education as well as for our region and the University of West Florida” said Dr. Eman El-Sheikh, a professor of computer science at UWF and the cybersecurity center director.
Dr. El-Sheikh says the state task force will be looking for weakness across the state system. “The main issue is always the evolving cyber threat landscape. So we continue to see complex cyber threats coming from various sources. And, of course, at the state level we are talking about the data and information of our citizens. So it’s very important to the mission and the economic prosperity of our state to make sure that we have the best infrastructure and operations and policies to maintain and enhance our cybersecurity resiliency. And more importantly to look at the future. How can we continue to plan strategically to not just keep ahead of the adversaries and keep cyber treats at bay, but also to really advance Florida as a leader in cybersecurity.”
And that means trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys, who are always adapting. “Every new attack or breach comes a little differently. There’s a little more information or something different about it. So (it’s important that) we keep up to date with what’s happening not just across our state, but also (nationally).”
The Center for Cybersecurity at UWF is open to undergraduate and graduate students, and works to solidify cybersecurity across the university’s campus. The center has also already been involved in a statewide effort to enhance election security. “We’ve had the opportunity to support the state agencies as well as the department of state on training for cybersecurity for election supervisors in the past. That’s a service that we’ve provided to the Florida Department of State last year and we’re certainly very interested in continuing the support their efforts moving forward.”
UWF also supports cybersecurity workforce development for the State of Florida, including training programs for state personnel in partnership with the Florida Department of Management Services and the Florida Department of State.
“The next step will be an initial meeting for the task force members to really review our charge from the governor" said Dr. El-Sheikh. (My understanding is) the task force is going to be tasked to provide recommendations on how to enhance cybersecurity operations, infrastructure and governance for the state. And then we’ll meet periodically as a task force to look at the existing challenges, opportunities, technologies, threats and come up with recommendations over the next year.”
Dr. El-Sheikh is the only academic named by the governor to the task force, which will be chaired by Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez and includes the state chief information officer, state chief information security officer and representatives from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Division of Cybersecurity Management. Business and health care leaders from the private sector will also participate.