Army launches partnership to tackle science of cybersecurity

Thursday - 10/31/2013, 7:06am EDT

John Pellegrino, director, Computational and Information Sciences Directorate, Army Research Lab

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The Army Research Lab is exploring the science behind cybersecurity. It has launched a five-year alliance with universities. In particular, they'll look at human behavior on the Internet.

John Pellegrino, director of the lab's Computational and Information Sciences Directorate, told Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp recently the lab has a long history of defending the Army's networks. At the same time the number of attacks on all network systems around the glove have increased over the last 10 to 20 years.

"While we've become very good at defending our network in a straightforward, engineering applications kind of way, we really don't understand the science behind it," Pellegrino said. "And what the fundamental fear is, so that we can design our networks to be much more robust and be able to operate our networks despite the facts that they will be under constant attack and it will be all sorts of people doing things from trying to get into our accounts and passwords or trying to access our data."

The lab's new initiative is a multidisiplinary research program examing the different scientific aspects of cybersecurity.

"One is detection," Pellegrino said. "Can we detect what's happening on the network? Another one is risk. What's the risk of operating a network given that there's malicious activity going on. Finally, there's cyber maneuver and that is, can you move around in cyberspace directing traffic in different directions? On top of that, what it really comes down to it's all about people. People are the ones who use the network. People are the ones that defend the network. People are the ones that are trying to attack the network."

The lab has assembled teams of experts in mathematics, computational sciences, information sciences, engineering, social psychologists and cognitive psychologists to examine these various aspects around cybersecurity.

Pellegrino admited that this type of examination is new and few universities have experience focusing on the science of cybersecurity.

"There are a few experts out there, but it has not really been a typcial focus of effort," he said. "Because you look back and you see all of the computer scientists and mathematicians and physicists and engineers, and we're not exactly known as the ones that delve into psychology very deeply. But that is a unique aspect of this program, where we're bringing that aspect very strongly into the program so that we can look at the project and research area much more holistically."

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