Staying well ahead of the hackers
In an age where cyber-attacks have compromised even the world’s foremost computer networks, it’s become imperative to secure vital communications systems and their vast stores of sensitive information.
The Center for Secure and Dependable Systems at the University of Idaho works with companies and government agencies to analyze and design software that safeguards computer infrastructure.
There, six faculty members and some 20 graduate and undergraduate students evaluate code, write proofs, and create mathematical models of muscled-up software aimed at shielding our nation’s power grids, transportation systems, health care industry and the country’s financial welfare.
The center was created in 1999 within the former Microelectronics Research and Communications Institute. It established independence in 2011 and has collaborated with such heavy hitters as the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to safeguard energy research data.
As a result of that partnership, the center’s founding member, James Alves-Foss, and his colleagues designed a security framework adopted by the INL and the U.S. Department of Energy.
“One of the things we’re really interested in is systems that protect the critical infrastructure,” he said. “We need to stay several moves ahead of malicious hackers.”
In the next five years, Alves-Foss hopes to double the center’s reach and become more interdisciplinary, tapping such departments as mathematics, statistics, engineering and business.
In addition, he’s keen on developing tools to help software engineers fend off insecure program code. He’s also eager to beef up security in microprocessors, which will automatically defend against infiltration. As the center expands, Alves-Foss sees it evolving into a comprehensive information cybersecurity resource for the university, the state and our national security.