Center allows industry to explore cybersecurity

The National Science Foundation is sponsoring a new research center to explore short-term solutions to cybersecurity problems. Government, businesses and academic institutions are invited to take part in the Center for Information Protection (CIP), based at Iowa State University. Organizers expect to open the center soon.

"With over 85 percent of the cyber infrastructure controlled by private industries, it is critical that government, academia and the private sector work together to develop better methods to protect public and private information contained within the infrastructure," said Carl Landwehr, an NSF program director, in a prepared statement.

Doug Jacobson, director of the university's Information Assurance Center, will lead the CIP project. Jacobson said security vendors are good at identifying and addressing problems through market research, but he added that coordination among the various stakeholders is inadequate.

CIP participants will choose two or three top concerns, and the security vendors will produce commercial products to address those concerns within a year. Under normal conditions, research and product development can take years, which the project leaders say is too long to wait to address current problems.

The initial list of security priorities includes intrusion detection, ad hoc network security and attack-tolerant systems. That list will probably grow.

Through NSF's Industry/University Cooperative Research Center program, CIP will get $120,000 in the first two years.

Jacobson said the NSF funds will mainly cover operating expenses. Most of the research funds will come from CIP members. Currently, 13 charter members are part of the organization. In addition to Iowa State University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology is participating in the initiative.

"The vendors who participate in the center have exclusive rights to the information to develop products," said Kurt Shedenhelm, chief executive officer and president of Palisade Systems.

No government agencies have joined the center yet, but project leaders said agency participation is welcome. Shedenhelm said one of CIP's objectives is to sign up 30 corporations as members. Boeing, Cargill and Principal Financial Group are charter members. Palisade Systems is the only security vendor at this time. Jacobson, Palisade's founder, is its chief technology officer.

Through discussions between government and industry, vendors are expected to gain firsthand knowledge of the problems that need quick solutions, Shedenhelm said.

The companies can then harness the combined brainpower at CIP to research, test and develop new solutions.

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