Army to offer 'information survival' training

The Army this fall plans to offer an online graduate-level training course on information systems survivability that would teach engineers to develop systems capable of surviving any kind of technical glitch or network attack.

The Army will offer the new 14-week information survivability (infosurv) course through the University of Maryland as an online distance-learning initiative sponsored by the Army Research Laboratory (ARL), Adelphi, Md. During the course, students with a basic engineering background will take advanced courses on reliability, security and performance risks that must be addressed early in the life cycle of an information system.

According to Lt. Col. Paul Walczak, senior computer scientist at ARL, the concept of infosurv has been around for about 10 years and has grown out of research conducted at ARL. Survivability, Walczak said, can best be defined as a system's ability to withstand hardware faults, software flaws, attacks by hackers and electromagnetic interference. When one of these types of failures brings a system or a portion of a system down, the rest of the information infrastructure must be capable of operating, he said.

"This is a serious attempt by the Army Research Lab to institutionalize the concept," Walczak said. Until now, reliability, survivability and security have been features that systems developers have "bolted on" after the development process started, he said. The goal is to build these requirements into the system design before development work begins, he said.

The Army plans to transmit live courses each Thursday from a lecture room on the College Park, Md., campus to as many as 16 satellite locations. "We plan to beam this course out to as many sites as are interested in it," said Walczak, who noted that the University of Tennessee, Pennsylvania State University and Harvard University also have expressed interest in taking part in future courses.

Peter Neumann, principal scientist at the Computer Science Laboratory at SRI International and the principal investigator for infosurv research, will be the primary instructor for the course. The course will act as the core course in a new four-course, master's-level certificate program in survivable systems, and it also can be used as credit toward a regular degree program.

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