Universities launch cybercenter

George Mason University National Center for Technology and Law

Officials from George Mason and James Madison universities announced May 14 that they will create a new federally funded center to provide resources and research for government and industry organizations that protect the nation's critical infrastructure.

The Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) Project, funded by a $6.5 million federal grant, will be led by a partnership between James Madison University and the George Mason University School of Law's National Center for Technology and Law.

The institutions applied together for the grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to provide solutions that combine the technical, policy and legal issues involved in CIP and information security.

"This will give us a strength that does not exist anywhere else in the country," said Linwood Rose, president of James Madison University.

The Virginia-based project will serve as a center of expertise and knowledge on cybersecurity. It will sponsor research within the two universities and at other academic institutions and will develop a Web portal for information on CIP issues and research, said John McCarthy, executive director of the project.

In 1998, President Clinton issued Presidential Decision Directive 63, which requires that both the public and private sectors protect the information systems that support the nation's critical infrastructure, such as communications and transportation.

Many agencies and organizations are still grappling with what critical infrastructure protection entails, but the issue has gained momentum since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Richard Clarke, President Bush's cyberspace security adviser, directs the new CIP Board, which is the federal government's lead organization on such issues.

The CIP Project is already working closely with the board and other groups to determine research needs that the project can fill, McCarthy said. That model of outreach and communication with CIP organizations is how the project will ensure that its research is being put to good use, McCarthy said.

"My goal is for the CIP Project to be seen as a useful resource," he said.

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