UALR joins new Department of Homeland Security-funded consortium

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 213 views 

Dr. Nitin Agarwal (photo credit Lonnie Timmons III)

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has been named a priority partner in a new national consortium funded by the Department of Homeland Security.

The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, according to a news release, will award a $3.85 million grant to the consortium for its first operating year in a 10-year grant period to create the Center of Excellence for Criminal Investigations and Network Analysis (CINA).

Led by George Mason University, the center’s research will focus on criminal network analysis, dynamic patterns of criminal activity, forensics, and criminal investigative processes.

UALR professor Dr. Nitin Agarwal, Jerry L. Maulden-Entergy endowed chair and information science professor, will lead the university’s research projects with the consortium.

As part of the consortium, Agarwal’s team will contribute to research areas designated as priorities by the Department of Homeland Security and provide training opportunities for students, researchers, and those working in cyber defense.

Agarwal’s research on deviant cyber flash mobs (CFM) is one such research priority for CINA. CFMs are groups of individuals who get together in public or cyberspace, perform an unpredicted act, and quickly disperse into anonymity. Though the activities of these groups can range from dance performances to peaceful protests, numerous groups promote violent, extremist, or otherwise negatively disruptive behavior.

Agarwal’s research transition efforts will support the consortium’s vision to develop tools that can be used to combat threats. In the past, Agarwal’s research on the blogosphere was transitioned into programs that help NATO public affairs officers and Department of Defense analysts access the information operations space and examine cyber warfare strategies and tactics in blogs and social media platforms.

The consortium will be made up of academic, industry, government and laboratory partners throughout the country who will work closely with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and other law enforcement organizations to establish a long-term productive relationship.

CINA will work with DHS components and other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to develop strategies and solutions for on-the-ground use by agents and officers to predict, thwart, and prosecute crimes. CINA will also contribute to the education and development of both university students and professionals working in the realms of prevention, prediction, investigation, and prosecution.

The Department of Homeland Security Centers of Excellence were established by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to be a “coordinated, university-based system to enhance the Nation’s homeland security.” They are a well-integrated network of researchers and educators focused on specific high-priority Department of Homeland Security challenges.