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Purdue partners with industry, academic leaders to address nation’s cybersecurity threats

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University’s Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS) is partnering with Northrop Grumman Corp. and two other universities to advance research and address the nation’s most pressing cyber threats.

The Northrop Grumman Cybersecurity Research Consortium, involving Purdue, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., was announced Tuesday (Dec. 1) at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The group will work to accelerate the transfer of technology from ideas to real-life application.

“The Cybersecurity Research Consortium is a wonderful new initiative for CERIAS,” said Gene Spafford, the Purdue center’s executive director. “For more than 15 years, Purdue has been the leading academic group in research and education in information security. Our mission has been to build collaborative relationships with industry, government and other academic entities to advance the state of cybersecurity through basic and applied research while serving as a resource to the global community. We welcome this opportunity for new collaborations and inspirations and look forward to continuing to innovate at the forefront of information protection and privacy.”

Robert Brammer, chief technology officer for Northrop Grumman Information Systems, said Purdue was among the first institutions the corporation thought of when putting the consortium together.

“Purdue’s CERIAS is the largest academic security center in the United States and has won many awards for research and educational excellence in cybersecurity,” Brammer said. “Purdue has produced about 25 percent of the Ph.D.’s in cybersecurity in the past several years and has developed many successful security inventions.”

A motivating factor in starting the consortium was to address some of the issues in President Obama’s report last May of the threats and the need to be in front of cybersecurity issues, Spafford said. CERIAS research was referenced four times in the president’s report.

“CERIAS has long held the belief that too much of today’s information security research focuses on patching near-term problems at the expense of fixing long-term issues,” Spafford said. “The consortium enables four leading research institutions to focus on addressing the fundamental issues of information security, assurance and privacy.”

The consortium will take on some of our world’s leading cyber problems, initially sponsoring 10 projects and providing graduate student fellowships while continuing to expand the portfolio of research to cover the many different aspects of cybersecurity. Members will coordinate research projects, share information and best practices, develop curricula, author joint case studies and other publications, and provide a greater number of learning opportunities and applications for students and the defense community.

For its part, CERIAS will conduct research in four areas:

  • Elisa Bertino, a computer science professor and director of research for CERIAS, will examine embedding information into a digitial signal and origins of data streams for information attribution.
  • Bharat Bhargava, a computer science professor and CERIAS fellow, will lead research into the detection and defense against attacks in cloudlike distributed systems.
  • Sonia Fahmy, associate professor in computer science, will lead research into decomposing Internet-scale models to accurately perform constrained experiments.
  • Rick Mislan, assistant professor in computer and information technology, will lead research into fast forensics, improving the speed and fidelity of forensics in the field on cell phones, PDAs and similar devices.

cerias_logoCERIAS is the world’s largest multidisciplinary academic center addressing the issues of information security, assurance, privacy and cybercrime. The center involves more than 80 faculty and 100 graduate students from 18 academic departments across eight of Purdue’s colleges.

The center was spawned from the Computer Operations, Audit and Security Technology (COAST) lab that was started in 1991 within Purdue’s computer sciences department from research by professors Spafford and Samuel Wagstaff Jr. In 1998 CERIAS began with state funding to look at information security from a multidisciplinary perspective. Since then, the center has taken part in more than 200 projects with private business, agency or government funding, including a recent study for antivirus software giant McAfee Inc. that found companies lost an estimated $4.6 billion in intellectual property in 2008 as a result of cybercrime.

Spafford has worked with government, law enforcement, corporate and academic officials, including two U.S. presidents, the FBI, departments of Justice and Energy, the U.S. Air Force, Microsoft, Intel, Unisys, and the National Science Foundation. He is the 2009 recipient of the Computing Research Association’s Distinguished Service Award and has testified before Congress many times on cybersecurity.

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