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$4.6 million grant to enable network security research

From The Cavalier Daily
September 13, 2007

By Laura Hoffman

With $4.6 million in their pockets, a University-led team of researchers has just begun work on strengthening the Department of Defense's security systems.

The five-year project, "Helix: A Self-Regenerative Architecture for the Incorruptible Enterprise," is backed by the Department of Defense's Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative award.

The MURI award "allows us to collaborate with other universities and tie together a lot of work from the past several years," said David Evans, co-principal investigator and associate professor of computer science.

The project will benefit enterprise-class systems, which a company would use for day-to-day operations, said Jack Davidson, co-principal investigator on the project and professor of computer science.

The Department of Defense will particularly benefit from the team's developments, according to Evans.

The project is "motivated by national security needs," Evans said. "We want to make it so bad guys can't break into systems."

In addition to the Department of Defense, society as a whole could benefit from the team's research, he noted.

"Computer networks are important because a large fraction of the economy is dependent on them functioning," Evans said.

The team is taking a "multi-prong approach" to combating security breaches, according to Davidson. He compared the group's goal to a biological system, citing avian flu as an example. Though an avian flu outbreak could result in mass casualties, genetic diversity would prevent everyone from being killed by the disease.

"We are trying to produce systems that have diversity," Davidson said, noting that diversity would prevent hackers who penetrated secured systems from disabling all system functions.

Davidson added that the team similarly hopes to develop software diversity to prevent attacks altogether. Evans noted, however, that effective prevention is difficult because of the ever-changing nature of attacks.

"We want to make systems resilient to all attacks, but we don't know what the attacks are yet," Evans said.

University researchers are teaming with colleagues at the University of California, Davis; the University of California, Santa Barbara; and the University of New Mexico to collaborate on the project, according to senior scientist Anh Nguyen-Tuong.

Computer Science Prof. John Knight will serve as the principal investigator on the team. He was not available for comment at press time.

Original Article | Local Copy


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