DOD grant funds cyberterror research

Center for Computer and Communications Security

The Defense Department recently awarded Carnegie Mellon University a five-year, $35.5 million grant to develop technologies and policies focused on combating cyberterrorism.

Pradeep Khosla, head of Carnegie Mellon's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the Center for Computer and Communications Security, said the research will focus on four key areas:

* The availability and security of the nation's information infrastructure.

* The availability and security of the communications infrastructure, including optical and wireless networks.

* Secure access to devices and physical spaces using biometric tools.

* The integration of policies and technologies, particularly privacy and confidentiality issues.

"We're going forward on all four at different levels of investment," Khosla said. "The one we're ramping up is the multimodal biometric authentication."

Because no single method is accurate enough, he said, research is being conducted on the use of fingerprints, thumbprints, facial- and retinal- recognition technology, and voice scans to confirm the identity of individuals attempting to access computers or physical locations.

"None by themselves offer high enough [levels of authentication], but by combining them all together, we can get really great accuracy," Khosla said, adding that the combined biometrics approach eventually could be used to allow only approved pilots access to the cockpits of aircraft.

Even before receiving the new financial backing, the Center for Computer and Communications Security, which is a multidisciplinary research program and collaborative effort between Carnegie Mellon's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the CERT Coordination Center, was recruiting students to work on the cyberterrorism projects. Ten researchers already are involved and another 10 are expected to join as the projects ramp up, Khosla said.

The DOD grant was awarded Sept. 1, and the first-year funding is $3.6 million, he said.

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