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Florida Center for Cybersecurity

Mark Schreiner/ WUSF 89.7 NEWS

Hackers, beware - the Florida Center for Cybersecurity has unveiled a service to help state universities teach students how to prevent cyber-attacks.

The resource is called the Florida CyberHub and includes a “Cybertown,” in which users monitor a simulated city’s virtual ecosystem and defend the different facilities against cyber-attacks. The CyberHub is designed to mimic a realistic cybersecurity experience.

Mark Schreiner / WUSF 89.7 News

With a seemingly endless number of recent computer data breaches, the need for improved cybersecurity continues to grow. A statewide initiative based out of the University of South Florida is stepping up its efforts to fill that need.

Aimee Blodgett / USF Communications and Marketing

When you ask former United States Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell what he thinks about the internet and information technology, he summons the words of Richard Danzig.

Danzig, who served as U.S. Secretary of the Navy from 1998 to 2001, once compared the internet to "a diet of poisoned fruit."

"This is delicious for us, it makes us more productive, more effective, improves our standard of living, we can communicate in our business," McConnell said. "But the downside of this wonderful, delicious product is it is poison, because the benefits exist, but it also introduces a level of vulnerability that someone can use that to your detriment."

McConnell shared his thoughts at a recent conference at the University of South Florida presented by the Florida Center for Cybersecurity, which is also known as FC2.

The state-funded center, which is based at USF, brings together experts from a dozen state schools to help Florida become a national leader in cybersecurity efforts.

USF News

Among the big winners in the 2014-15 state budget signed by Gov. Rick Scott on Monday is the University of South Florida, which picked up funding for a number of projects that still needed support.

According to USF News, all five of the university's top legislative priorities were met.

Mark Schreiner / WUSF 89.7 News

When it comes to the new Florida Center for Cybersecurity at USF, managing director Sri Sridharan isn’t afraid to aim high.

“If someone has a question a couple of years from now in Billings, Montana, and says, ‘I have a question on cybersecurity,’ the answer should be, ‘Hey, go to those guys at University of South Florida, they’ll have the answer for you,’” Sridharan said.

Beginning this fall, the center will offer a master’s degree in cybersecurity through a program that goes well beyond typical information technology (IT) offerings.