NSF grants target cybersecurity research projects

The National Science Foundation awarded $36 million in grants for cybersecurity research projects to protect computer operations at homes, offices and within critical infrastructure networks. The grants are part of the foundation's 2005 Cyber Trust program.

The awards include $15 million for two new cybersecurity academic centers: $7.5 million to develop IT for trustworthy voting systems at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and $7.5 million to design, build and validate a secure IT infrastructure for the next-generation electric power grid at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

"These two centers represent opportunities to find solutions for urgent national problems," said Carl Landwehr, coordinator of the foundation's Cyber Trust program. Each center will receive approximately $1.5 million per year for five years.

At Johns Hopkins, computer science professor Avi Rubin will direct A Center for Correct, Usable, Reliable, Auditable and Transparent Elections (Accurate), a collaborative project involving six institutions. Accurate will investigate software architectures, tamper-resistant hardware, cryptographic protocols and verification systems as applied to electronic voting systems. It also will look at system usability and the interaction between public policy and technology.

The second collaborative center will be led by William Sanders, director of the Information Trust Institute at the University of Illinois. The new Trustworthy Cyber Infrastructure for the Power Grid project will bring together four institutions to develop technologies to carry critical information to grid operators in the event of cyber attacks and accidental failures. The Energy and Homeland Security departments also are expected to help fund and manage the center.

The NSF also will distribute awards of at least $200,000 each to 34 other research projects to ensure authenticity of digital media; develop automated defenses against cyber attacks, including viruses, worms and spyware; extract information from large databases without compromising individual privacy; protect businesses from denial-of-service attacks; and safeguard children's online transactions by increasing parental consent.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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