Staying Well Ahead of Hackers and Protecting the Public

Wednesday, June 13 2012


By Ysabel Bilbao

BOISE, Idaho – It can be as big as a breach of national security, a personal attack on private information or something that seems as simple as an off- sync traffic light in a power outage. Regardless of the situation, cybercriminals may be to blame.

Fortunately, cybersecurity research at the University of Idaho is helping to safeguard computers’ vast stores of data vital to individuals, companies and complex computer networks controlling everything from banking to the air traffic control system.

That research will now be bolstered by a $640,200 award bestowed by the State Board of Education – through the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission or IGEM – to U-Idaho’s Center for Secure and Dependable Systems or CSDS and its cybersecurity program, based on the Moscow campus.

“The grant will enable the hire of five new faculty members – in the fields of computer science, electrical and computer engineering, civil engineering and sociology – to further bolster cyber-security research and education,” said Jack McIver, vice president of the university’s office of research and economic development.

Additionally, funding will assist in the development of educational workshops, joint proposals and joint development activities for students and support for the establishment of a software security-testing laboratory.

“The University of Idaho’s College of Engineering is a national leader in cybersecurity. We plan to leverage the support from IGEM to accelerate our ability to advance cybersecurity technologies – particularly as they pertain to electrical power and transportation infrastructures upon which our industry depends. We will also accelerate our ability to transfer these technologies to the private sector,” said Larry Stauffer, dean of the college.

Established in 1998, the CSDS is recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education and is one of the first seven universities in the nation to receive the designation. To date, the center has attracted more than $10 million in research funding.

“Cybersecurity technology is vital for developing secure, dependable and efficient software systems. Today, all Idaho industries – whether they’re in manufacturing, e-commerce, retail or agriculture – depend on such systems. Cybersecurity advancements increase the reliability of products and services and lead to increased customer satisfaction and subsequent market share,” said Stauffer.

The CSDS already works with companies and government agencies to analyze and design software that safeguards computer infrastructure. Faculty assists undergraduate and graduate students as they develop software aimed at shielding our nation’s power grids, transportation systems, health-care industry and the country’s financial welfare.

U-Idaho’s research, under the direction of James Alves-Foss, director of CSDS, has already resulted in a security framework adopted by the Idaho National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy.

“Through the vision of the governor and the Idaho legislature, the IGEM program was created and is moving forward. This is the first step in allowing the research universities like ours to invest in areas that will expand our research and teaching capacities while providing for potential near- and long-term economic impacts in our state,” said McIver.

Growth of research and education through this multidisciplinary STEM program supports Idaho’s statewide strategic plan for research by higher education institutions.
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About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to more than 70 additional research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. Learn more: www.uidaho.edu.