Research center opening for info security

Government officials working to protect information systems will be able to seek guidance and skilled graduates from a new research center at Johns Hopkins University.

The university's Information Security Institute (www.jhuisi.jhu.edu) plans to conduct its first information security seminars in the spring and to expand existing courses and programs by September 2001, university officials said.

Researchers will study problems such as security of electronic transactions, patient privacy in telemedicine and medical databases, and systems attacks by hackers and computer criminals.

Nearly every school and division in the Baltimore-based university will contribute experts to study the technological, legal, ethical and public-policy challenges associated with information security.

"The underlying concept is that in the [information technology] security field, many of the interesting problem areas have this hybrid nature to them so that they are best approached by teams of people with different backgrounds," said Gerald Masson, chairman of the university's department of computer science.

Plans for the institute received a major boost within the past three months when an anonymous donor pledged $10 million to the project, Masson said.

Masson said he envisions the institute's basic and applied research spurring the regional economy, making the Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia corridor a Silicon Valley of sorts for information security.

Building on work at its Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., and elsewhere, the university will form partnerships with businesses and other universities in the area. A satellite operation in New York City is also under consideration, Masson said.

"If you look at the number of IT employees in the area — if there is enough content available; short courses, in addition to the degree programs — the region could be recognized for this particular aspect of IT," Masson said. "We could play a major role in attracting new companies and having existing companies expand their base of operation in this field."

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