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UA combating cyber attacks with first-of-its-kind degree program

Creating intelligence and information operations degree
Posted at 10:25 PM, Jun 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-20 01:28:56-04

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. — The nature of warfare has changed a lot since Desert Storm and the Iraq War.

There's another battlefield -- cyberspace. And the weapons are computers.

"Other nations have realized they just can't stand toe to toe with us, and they'll be destroyed," Jason Denno, the director of Cyber Operations at the University of Arizona South said.

Denno says other countries are using fake news, bots, and election meddling to try to divide the U.S.

"It's very difficult to detect what they're doing, why they're doing it, and who they're doing it with," he said.

Denno created an entire online world called CyberApolis, where UA students learn how to detect bots and fake personas. It's hard to tell what's real from what's fake in this virtual world -- just like it is in the real world.

Students sift through 15,000 virtual personas created with advanced artificial intelligence. What they learn is exactly what they go on to do in the real world to stop the cyber attacks.

The intelligence program started out with just three students a few years ago. Now, enrollment is currently more than 300 students.

The UA recently received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency to transform the program, to create the country's first degree in intelligence and information operations.

The new degree will be offered starting this fall at the Sierra Vista campus.