In Fight Against Cyberterrorism, National Security Agency Names UB "Center for Information Assurance"

Release Date: May 2, 2002

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The National Security Agency (NSA) has named the University at Buffalo a Center of Excellence in Information Systems Assurance Research and Education to develop new programs to conduct research and train students to protect the nation's information technology systems from cyberterrorism and security breaches on the Internet.

UB is one of 13 universities to receive the designation this year and among only 36 who have received named to date by the NSA.

The agency will formally announce designation of the new centers next month at a meeting in Redmond, Wash., at which Richard Clarke, President Bush's advisor for cyber security, will be keynote speaker and Microsoft chair Bill Gates is an invited speaker.

The designation as a Center of Excellence in Information Systems Assurance Research and Education is awarded competitively to universities that have proven they meet rigorous NSA requirements in both curriculum and research.

Shambhu Upadhyaya, Ph.D., UB associate professor of computer science and engineering, will be director of the center at UB.

"The importance of information security has been raised recently in our national consciousness," said Bruce Pitman, Ph.D., UB vice provost for educational technology. "The designation of this NSA center is a tribute to Professor Upadhyaya and the array of scholars he has brought together to address this need."

Pitman noted that the designation allows UB to compete with the best research groups in the country for federal grants, awards and scholarship opportunities from the Department of Defense and other agencies, and allows students to be part of leading-edge scientific discoveries and education.

"There are always people with malicious intent who will look for the loopholes in the system," Upadhyaya noted. "With the Internet so pervasive, there has been for several years a critical shortage of professionals in the area of information assurance. The federal government has recognized that higher education is the solution to protecting the nation's information infrastructure and this center will play a key role."

The goals of the multidisciplinary center are to contribute to the SUNY Homeland Defense initiative at UB by collaborating with state and federal agencies, including the New York State Office of Science and Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR), to implement educational programs in information assurance -- first at the graduate level and eventually at the undergraduate level -- and to collaborate with and help train employees of local companies involved in computer security research.

"The center provides an excellent opportunity to partner with local companies and others across New York State to obtain joint federal funding, as well as to provide potential employees to those firms by graduating well-trained students," said Mark Karwan, Ph.D., dean of the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

The center brings together individual UB researchers in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Law School and the School of Management who have been working independently on various aspects of information-technology assurance.

"There are more than 20 courses in this field at UB and at least 10 faculty members doing funded research in this area," said Upadhyaya. "The objective of the center is to bring all of them into one formal center to build a cohesive program."

Participating faculty include Alan Selman, Ph.D., professor, Bharat Jayaraman, Ph.D., professor and chair, Sviatoslav B. Braynov, Ph.D., assistant professor, and Chunming Qiao, Ph.D., associate professor, all of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering; H. Raghav Rao, Ph.D., professor, and Rajiv Kishore, Ph.D., assistant professor, both in the Department of Management Science and Systems; Shubha Ghosh, and Robert Reis, both professors in the Law School, and Thomas Cusick, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Mathematics.

Courses and research at UB in the field center on topics ranging from e-commerce and cryptography to intellectual property, database management and advanced programming.

Immediate goals of the center are to begin a certificate program in information assurance at the masters' level and to add an information assurance concentration in the existing master's degree program in computer science and engineering.

Upadhyaya said graduate students should be able to enroll in the new certificate program in information assurance beginning in Fall 2003. He added that he and other UB faculty members will be working with currently enrolled students to tailor master's programs so that they reflect an emphasis in information assurance.

"The purpose of information assurance is to protect and defend information systems by ensuring confidentiality and privacy, integrity and availability of service," Rao said. He noted that the deliberate flooding several years ago of some of the Web's best-traveled sites, such as Yahoo and Amazon, were a well-publicized example of the violation of availability of service.

"The field operates on the premise that the way to ensure information assurance is to protect systems from violations, detect them immediately when they occur and react," he said.

Research will focus on developing faster, flexible and more accurate methods of doing all three.

UB's application to the NSA for center designation developed out of collaborative research Upadhyaya conducts for the Air Force Research Laboratories Information Institute in Rome, N.Y.

During the past several years, his research funded by the Air Force has focused on developing fault-tolerant computing that allows systems to function despite technical failures. More recently, he has begun to modify those systems so that they function in spite of security breaches. In a new project funded by the Air Force, he has developed a sophisticated intrusion detection system designed to detect intrusions as they are occurring.

For more information on the center, go to http://www.cse.buffalo.edu/caeiae/.

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