2 min

“Cyber Security Needs to Be Considered from the Very Beginning”

Vahab Pournaghshband researches on securing data transfer in networks and promoting effective and inclusive pedagogies in cyber security.

“Cyber Security Needs to Be Considered from the Very Beginning”
Copyright: FH St. Pölten/Florian Stix

“We now know that the security of systems goes hand in hand with functionality and should not be ‘added’ at the end”, emphasizes Vahab Pournaghshband from the University of San Francisco. During his current research stay at the St. Pölten UAS as part of a Fulbright professorship, he is not only researching on cybersecurity in the realm of computer networks, but also to promote inclusive learning environment for all Computer Science students.

Challenges in Cybersecurity

What might sound obvious at first has far-reaching implications for teaching: “Students are often taught to focus on functionality and efficiency when developing new software. Overlooking the importance of cybersecurity in curriculum leads to vulnerable software that are often challenging to fix.” Pournaghshband, in his area of expertise, who has been a faculty at the University of San Francisco since 2018, researches how to secure data transfers in computer networks. “Data are transferred through certain intermediaries and in the process, the sender and receiver often don’t know if changes have been made to the data by these intermediaries. This is where I try to empower Internet users by developing applications to provide greater transparency to what happens to our data on the Internet.” Considering it as one of numerous cybersecurity challenges posed by digital working and business, such applications are of great importance.

Diversity in Computer Science

At the same time, Pournaghshband said, active measures are also needed to make the field of computer science to be more diverse and inclusive. Computer science is known to be a male-dominant field, and for this, in his research he strives to promote inclusive pedagogies to include all students. “We've made a lot of progress in this respect compared to the last few decades but there’s definitely still a lot of work ahead of us”, he adds.

Travels to 110 Countries

Apart from conducting research and teaching at the Department of Computer Science & Security, Pournaghshband uses his free time to get to know Austria: “The Fulbright professorship at the St. Pölten UAS provides me with the ideal combination of research and teaching. At the same time, I really enjoy immersing myself in a new culture for a longer period of time. I love to travel and have visited 110 countries and lived in seven for an extended period of time. Both professionally and personally, I find the cultural exchanges to be very enriching”, says Pournaghshband, who will extend his stay in Austria at the end of the semester to explore Austria before returning to his home university in San Francisco at the end of August.

About the Fulbright Exchange Programme

Fulbright Austria promotes understanding, cooperation, and knowledge transfer between Austria and the United States by sponsoring educational and cultural exchange programmes for individuals and institutions. The Fulbright Specialist Programme enables scholars from the US to contribute their expertise to universities in Austria, strengthen institutional ties, gain international experience, and learn more about the Austrian culture.

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