Pitt names founding director for Cyber Institute


David Hickton will be the founding director of Pitt's Cyber Institute. Courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh

By Ashwini Sivaganesh and Alexa Bakalarski / News Editors

Pitt  announced the director of the new Pitt Cyber Institute, which will focus on addressing and teaching issues of cyber security, Wednesday morning.

The university appointed David J. Hickton as the head of the institute, a new interdisciplinary teaching and research facility that will work with the School of Computing and Information to combat cybercrime as well as address personal security and Internet security. Both are set to open in July.

Before taking the position at Pitt, Hickton served as western Pennsylvania’s U.S. Attorney from 2010 until he stepped down in November of last year. The Post-Gazette reported Hickton was the first U.S. attorney to resign after Donald Trump became president-elect on Nov. 8, although Hickton didn’t comment on whether his resignation and Trump’s election were related.

At Pitt, Hickton said he will work closely with faculty members who were recently associated with the new computing school to find innovative ways to approach the topic of cyber security, but hasn’t determined whether the Institute will offer new courses.

In order to merge his cyber security experience with the university, Hickton is working with faculty within the computer science, law and engineering schools as well as auditing classes to have a better sense of what the institute wants to do.

“With the appointment of David Hickton, the University of Pittsburgh is poised to offer significant contributions to the national discussion on cyber-related issues affecting personal, national and global security and privacy,” Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said in a press release Wednesday.

Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Patricia Beeson said Hickton will assemble thinkers in the cyber security field, enhancing Pitt’s research and learning environment.

“We have an array of very talented and motivated faculty working in areas of cyber law, policy, security, and technology, and we believe the institute and the record of accomplishment David brings will offer opportunity for a vital synergy,” Beeson said in the release.

Hickton served in the private sector for 25 years and assisted in the creation of legal practices for cybercrime investigation. He wants the cyber institute to be a platform for people to discuss cybersecurity and the digital age and provide solutions for cyber threats.

“The challenges of the digital platform and cybersecurity are real,” Hickton said in the press release. “It is the crime paradigm of this era, and to defeat it, we must have the full participation of the public and private sectors, as well as the University community.”

Hickton earned his bachelor’s degree from Penn State in 1978 and his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 1981.

His most notable accomplishments include indicting Evgeniy Bogachev, a Russian cybercriminal, and breaking down Dark0de, a hacker forum used to sell, trade and share information. Bogachev worked in an administrative role in a scheme that installed malicious software known as “Zeus” on computers to find bank account numbers and other information needed to log into bank accounts. In addition, his firm indicted five members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army for cyber theft from the United Steelworkers of America.

Hickton will take his experience with prosecuting cybercriminals to help students and faculty become leaders in solving problems and threats that the digital world presents to western Pennsylvania and the nation.

“This is broader than just law enforcement,” Hickton said in the press release. “This is about applying law to digital space and developing laws and norms and rules to apply to this open environment.

Leave a comment.