With Launch of New Institute, RIC is Poised to Become Leader in Cybersecurity

Jim Langevin and Jen Easterly in a fireside chat

CISA Director Jen Easterly discusses the nation’s vital need for cybersecurity with former U.S. Rep. Langevin at his institute’s launch.

Dignitaries lauded former U.S. Representative and RIC alumnus Jim Langevin for over two decades of leading the charge for a national cyber defense.

They converged on Sapinsley Hall on Nov. 6 in support of the launch of the Institute for Cybersecurity and Emerging Technologies at Rhode Island College.

Led by Langevin and housed in RIC’s School of Business, the institute is slated to become a national center of excellence in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, machine learning and other emerging technologies.

“It is safe to say that no one person in our country has done more through national cybersecurity, cyber policy, cyber strategy than Congressman Langevin.”

CISA Director Jen Easterly

Federal and state dignitaries in attendance included: RIC President Jack Warner, R.I. Gov. Dan McKee, Sen. Jack Reed, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Rep. Seth Magaziner, House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi, Senate President Dominick Ruggiero, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, Providence Mayor Brett Smiley, Postsecondary of Education Commissioner Shannon Gilbert, Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Systems Agency Jen Easterly and Langevin.

“It is safe to say that no one person in our country has done more through national cybersecurity, cyber policy, cyber strategy than Congressman Langevin,” Easterly said. “Jim Langevin did cyber before cyber was cool, from starting the congressional Cybersecurity Caucus in 2008, to all the initiatives he led as part of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee. He played a pivotal role in stand up organizations like CISA and in the office of the national cyber director. No one has done more over the past 22 years to ensure that this country is on the forward edge of cybersecurity.

“For CISA, in particular, he spearheaded some of our most important programs.…The launch of this institute represents [Langevin’s] continued commitment, continued dedication, to tackling the nation’s toughest, most important problems and inspiring that next generation of leaders.”

Whitehouse noted, “If you look at all of us gathered here at this program, with more members of government than we could fit on the podium, some are sitting in the audience as well, it is an outpouring of admiration and affection for Jim. It is also an expression of our desire…to make sure that [he has] all the support [he] needs with this new endeavor.”

Jim Langevin
Former U.S. Rep. and RIC alumnus Jim Langevin

The mission of the Institute for Cybersecurity and Emerging Technologies, Langevin says, is to “nurture, educate and train the next generation of leaders and innovators in cybersecurity,” to “become a hub for research, education and workforce development.”

“This is not an endeavor that Rhode Island College will do on its own,” he says. “It will be a collaborative effort, pulling together the strength of public and private sectors and also college and universities and K-12 schools in the region.”

Beyond cybersecurity, the institute will be at the forefront of research, education and training in emerging technologies, such as biotechnology and quantum computing. The institute will also explore the limitless potential of AI.

“Today marks the dawn of a new era in Rhode Island,” says Langevin. “The Institute for Cybersecurity and Emerging Technologies at Rhode Island College will be a shining beacon of innovation and a testament to the resilience, determination and collaborative spirit of our great state.”

Jen Easterly at podium with Langevin sitting behind her
Director of CISA Jen Easterly

During the second half of the program, Langevin and CISA Director Jen Easterly discussed the nation’s critical need for cybersecurity.

Easterly has had two tours at the White House, most recently as special assistant to former President Barack Obama and senior director for counterterrorism, and earlier as executive assistant to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in the George W. Bush administration. A former member of the Defense Intelligence Senior Executive Service, she also served as the deputy for counterterrorism at the National Security Agency.

Easterly retired from the U.S. Army after more than 20 years of service in intelligence and cyber operations, including tours of duty in Haiti, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. Responsible for standing up the Army’s first cyber battalion, Easterly was also instrumental in the design and creation of United States Cyber Command.

“Global cybercrime is supposed to cost the world about $8 trillion this year.”

CISA Director Jen Easterly

“As director of the nation’s civilian cyber defense agency, I know how important cybersecurity is to our nation,” she said. “It is indeed a vital need. It is critical that we’re able to recruit and train and prepare and inspire that next generation of cybersecurity professionals.”

CISA leads the national effort to understand, manage and reduce the risk of cyberattacks to the infrastructure that Americans rely on a daily basis – our water supply, healthcare, transportation, communication, financial services, food and agriculture. Infrastructures so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on this country.

Easterly spoke about the nation’s potential infrastructure vulnerabilities and what we can do to enhance the overall security of our nation. She cited China as the biggest threat to U.S. infrastructures and ransomware as a daily, costly plague. “Global cybercrime is supposed to cost the world about $8 trillion this year,” she said.

Easterly also expressed excitement about the potential of artificial intelligence as well as its dangers.

“Over the last year, the developments we’ve seen in artificial intelligence has really captured the world’s imagination,” she said. “These tools will be the most powerful technology we’ve ever seen. They’ll also be the most powerful weapons” in the hands of malicious actors.

This is why “technology needs to be secure by design,” she said. Technology needs to be built so that it is less vulnerable to cyberattacks. Easterly said software manufacturers need to shift the responsibility from consumers and businesses and take responsibility for creating more secure products. “You wouldn’t want to get into a car without a seat belt, any more than you’d want to use a computer that isn’t safe,” she says.

Easterly encouraged RIC students to come and serve at CISA, even if for a short period of time; however, no matter where they serve, be it in business, local or federal government, “We need all of you to be a part of defending this nation,” she said.