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Gov. McAuliffe Visit to VMASC Includes Virtual Reality and Cybersecurity Tool Demonstrations

By Brendan O'Hallarn

Researchers at Old Dominion University's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC) introduced Gov. Terry McAuliffe to a brand-new simulation tool for assessing the vulnerabilities of companies to cyber-attacks. He was impressed.

Peter Foytik, VMASC senior project scientist, demonstrated the CRISM (Cyber Risk Scoring and Mitigation) tool to the governor, business leaders and University leaders on April 12.

Developed through a Department of Homeland Security grant by Sachin Shetty, associate professor of modeling and simulation engineering, the CRISM tool measures the security capabilities of a company's cloud IT infrastructure, therefore measuring a company's cybersecurity risk.

"How do we know which (cybersecurity) application we should install?" said Foytik, noting the financial stakes for companies that don't have sufficient protection or that use the wrong tool. "CRISM is the solution to that problem."

The software application has already been licensed by one company but could be applied to many fields, Foytik said. It may particularly benefit the growing $2.75 billion cyberinsurance market, which currently lacks a technological approach to analyzing risk and pricing policies accordingly.

The visit to the Suffolk facility also afforded Gov. McAuliffe the opportunity to see the multidisciplinary research being conducted at the University.

President John R. Broderick noted that in the 20 years since VMASC was founded, the center has performed more than $110 million in funded research and generated $300 million in economic impact for the Commonwealth.

"VMASC benefits the University, the region and the Commonwealth, not only through innovative research, but also as an economic engine for Hampton Roads," he said.

President Broderick also thanked John Sokolowski, who is retiring as VMASC executive director after 16 years at Old Dominion. "Under Dr. Sokolowski's leadership, VMASC has achieved world-class research capability in M&S."

Gov. McAuliffe took an augmented and virtual reality tour of the ancient settlement Çatalhöyük, which existed from about 7500 to 5700 B.C. in what is now Turkey. Led by Saikou Diallo, research associate professor, VMASC researchers use augmented and virtual reality to bring an ancient village to life.

The virtual environment accesses archeological site data and creates a lasting visualization of the city as it might have been thousands of years ago. It also demonstrates the potential to create augmented and virtual reality simulations for disciplines ranging from manufacturing to medicine.

The governor also received a demonstration of VMASC's simulation environment demo Cloudes, an online environment where educators and students can create and share simulations of complex systems across computing platforms and operating systems with just a web browser.

After the tour, Gov. McAuliffe spoke about what research centers like VMASC can mean to Hampton Roads and Virginia.

"I talk all the time about growing the new Virginia economy," said McAuliffe. "You come into VMASC and this is the 21st century here. I'd love to have every sixth grader come here and put on those (virtual reality) goggles like I did. They'd want to study modeling and simulation at Old Dominion University."

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