Illinois receives funding from NSA to design trusted systems
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has received a contract from the National Security Agency to lead an effort that will deepen the scientific understanding of the design of trusted systems. Illinois is one of six research institutions to receive funding for a “Lablet” that will conduct foundational security and privacy work over the next five years.
Led by ECE Illinois Head William H. Sanders, the Illinois Lablet will focus on the “Science of Security for Resilient Systems (SSRS).” The multi-university initiative, which includes researchers from 13 institutions and builds on the work of a previous NSA Lablet at Illinois, will consider how to develop security at a system level, examining how the properties of different components contribute to a system’s end-to-end security.
“Illinois has a long track record in advancing the design and deployment of secure systems,” said Sanders, a Donald Biggar Willett Professor of Engineering and researcher in Illinois’ Information Trust Institute, which will administer the Lablet. “SSRS will continue the work started by the previous Lablet to develop the mathematical foundation for more secure and resilient systems.”
From cellular networks to the smart grid, many of the nation’s most critical systems are vulnerable, whether from an accident, natural disaster, or malicious attack. In addition, the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) and other new cyber-enhanced infrastructures will enable many exciting and useful applications, but present new attack surfaces and risks. When these systems go down, it can have a devastating effect on the well-being of our society.
Currently, there is a sound science-based approach for designing and assessing systems that are tolerant to accidental faults, but the field is lacking a counterpart for systems that are resilient to malicious attacks. The Illinois Lablet seeks to address this problem by in a two-fold way: 1) to develop a mixture of foundational mathematics, modeling frameworks, algorithms, protocols, security metrics, and experimental techniques that help protect systems; and 2) to emphasize community building.
“If only a handful of researchers develop and use a science of security, then we won’t make much impact on a national level,” Sanders said. “To have real impact, we need to build a community of researchers who develop and use science of security principles and methods, and who work together to identify and attack hard problems.”
The Illinois Lablet will include researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Case Western University, Cyber Defense Agency, Dartmouth College, Drexel University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California, Berkeley, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, and the University of Texas at Austin. Previously, NSA had funded the “Science of Security” (SoS) Lablet at Illinois with an initial $1 million in 2011, followed by nearly $10 million in additional funding for SoS work through 2017. Along with Sanders, the Lablet will be led by Illinois co-PIs Sayan Mitra, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and ITI Director David Nicol, Franklin W. Woeltge Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
In this round, NSA also is funding Lablets led by Carnegie-Mellon University, International Computer Science Institute, North Carolina State University, University of Kansas, and Vanderbilt University.