New cybersecurity center at UD to explore protecting health info

Health information is now one of the most sought-after online records pursued in cyber attacks and that’s one of the reasons behind a partnership to create the Center for Cybersecurity & Data Intelligence at the University of Dayton.

Premier Health, the operator of Miami Valley Hospital and the region’s largest health system, announced Thursday it was making a sizable donation to UD to create the $3 million center at Miriam Hall on UD’s campus.

One mission of the center will be to explore best practices to better protect online data, helping patients “take control” of their health information in safe ways, officials said.

This is the second recent partnership announcement by the two organizations. Last month, leaders of the university and the hospital system pledged to work together to develop the historic South Main Street fairgrounds as the Montgomery County Agricultural Society seeks out a new home for the annual fair and related activities.

The exact amount of Premier’s gift was not identified. “We can tell you it’s a substantial gift,” said Ben Sutherly, a Premier Health spokesman.

Though there is still some fund-raising to do, the partnership already has secured about two-thirds of that $3 million amount, so administrators are looking to raise perhaps $1 million more, UD Chief Information Officer Thomas Skill said Thursday.

And UD is also seeking a total of perhaps two to three industry partners for the center to help underwrite the cost and develop center programming.

Gary Ginter, Premier Health chief information officer and system vice president, hopes smaller technical firms and even Wright-Patterson Air Force Base — the home of Air Force logistics and Ohio’s largest single-site employer — may find a role at the center.

“This isn’t going away,” Ginter said of the need for greater cybersecurity. “This is not a fad, unfortunately.”

The center will focus on research and education, for institutions and individuals, Skill and Ginter said.

“We thought what an ideal way to really engage our professional IT (information technology) staff, our academic folks, our community partners and our students, as they come in,” Skill said.

He expects the center to have a “multi-disciplinary” approach, harnessing the skills of technical staff, those who “understand human behavior,” and organizational experts. It will extend from academics to regional partners who have their own unique data protection needs, Skill said.

There will also be room for research.

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“What are the new things we should be testing, evaluating and inventing that might help us better understand and protect our systems?” Skill said.

The increase in health record hacks has become substantial, he said.

“Stealing health information is something that allows them to do anything from being able to leverage that information in ways of allowing people to sell it and make money off of it — or ways to just be able to compromise other people’s identities,” Skill said.

Ginter agreed that there are distinct risks in the health field, saying that health information obtained on the “black market” can be “more valuable than (stolen) credit card information right now.”

While UD and Premier are “totally different industries,” they have plenty of of common ground between them, Ginter said. The university has students and faculty; Premier has patients and employees.

Said Ginter: “We thought, let’s face these (risks) together and see what we can do together.”

“This is something we have put a lot of focus on, especially in the last three years, because this is something you see in the paper every day,” he added.

The site’s mission will broaden over time to focus on the needs of other partners as they come aboard, both Skill and Ginter said.

The center will be a home for education, a test lab for vendors, as well as an opportunity for UD students.

“We just see a world of potential in this,” Ginter said.

Any organization interested in becoming a partner in the center can contact Derrick Dukes, assistant vice president for corporate relations for UD, at (937) 229-4523 or, UD said.

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