VUSE part of national ‘Dream Team’ to design, develop new secure system for computer infrastructure

Vanderbilt University’s School of Engineering will play an important role in a major new $19 million National Science Foundation (NSF) multi-institutional center to protect the nation’s computer infrastructure from cyberattacks while improving its reliability.

Vanderbilt Institute for Software Integrated Systems (ISIS) is one of eight university collaborators in the new NSF Team for Research and Ubiquitous Secure Technology (TRUST), a new Science and Technology Center that NSF announced today. The center’s initial funding of $19 million will be apportioned over five years, with the possibility of a five-year, $20 million extension at the end of the term. Vanderbilt’s portion of the initial funding will be $3 million.

“The cybersecurity community has long feared that it would take an electronic Pearl Harbor for people to realize the scale of disruptions possible from a concerted attack by terrorists,” said S. Shankar Sastry, University of California, Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences and the principal investigator and director of the TRUST center.

Vanderbilt researchers will help develop new technologies to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure from such attacks. “ISIS ‘Model-Integrated Computing’ technology will play a key role in establishing a new discipline for secure system design,” said Janos Sztipanovits, ISIS director and E. Bronson Ingram Distinguished Professor of Engineering.

TRUST researchers intend to radically transform the ability of organizations to design, build and operate trustworthy information systems that control critical infrastructure.

TRUST “will investigate key issues of computer trustworthiness in an era of increasing attacks at all levels on computer systems and information-based technologies,” NSF said in announcing the new center. According to the announcement, TRUST “will address a parallel and accelerating trend of the last decade – the integrating of computing and communication across critical infrastructures in such areas as finance, energy distribution, telecommunications and transportation.”

The center will build cyber system security through modeling and analysis, development of secure embedded (“smart”) systems, and integration of reliable components and secure information management software tools.

The center will also develop education and outreach programs geared to K-12 schools, undergraduate students and institutions serving under-represented populations, who will become the future of cybersecure systems.

“We expect that TRUST will rapidly become a national resource that will transform the way we practice and teach systems science and engineering,” Sztipanovits said.

In addition to Vanderbilt School of Engineering and UC Berkeley, TRUST academic partners include Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University, Mills College, San Jose State University, Smith College and Stanford University. The program also brings together multiple industrial partners, including BellSouth, Cisco Systems, ESCHER (Boeing, General Motors, Raytheon), Hewlett Packard, IBM, Intel, Micosoft, Qualcom, Sun and Symantec.

TRUST “represents the ‘Dream Team’ of information assurance and complex systems research,” said Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Science Committee. Boehlert played a critical role in reinstating funding for the NSF Science and Technology Center program when it was expected to be cut.

NSF established the Science and Technology Center program in 1987, responding to a presidential commitment to fund important fundamental research activities that also create educational opportunities. The program was also designed to encourage technology transfer and to provide innovative approaches to interdisciplinary research challenges.

ISIS is an internationally recognized research organization focused on advanced technologies for intelligent systems and software.


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