NSF, Iowa State to launch cybersecurity center


Iowa State University and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) will join with private businesses to attack cybersecurity problems such as wireless security in a research center opening this year, participants were to announce Monday.

The new Center for Information Protection, funded mostly through membership fees paid by cybersecurity vendors and users, will focus on short-term cybersecurity issues, possibly including research on methods to comply with federal regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley, said Doug Jacobson, an Iowa State engineering professor and CTO at Palisade Systems, a network management and security vendor.

The center, the first cybersecurity-focused effort in the NSF's Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers Program, will focus on issues identified by member companies, Jacobson said. The program has provided seed money for dozens of research projects, many of which are spun out into organizations fully supported by private industry.

The goal of the center will be to come up with new technologies that participants can use to fight common cybersecurity problems, Jacobson said. The intellectual property developed by the center will be shared among member organizations, and members will be able to use the ideas that are generated in products they sell.

So far, about 15 organizations have signed up as charter members of the Center for Information Protection, which will be based at Iowa State, Jacobson said. The center is looking for a range of companies, including cybersecurity vendors and consumers of cybersecurity products, he added.

"We want to bring together not only providers of security solutions, but we want to bring together organizations that have the problems," he said. "We're kind of a neutral third party. We're trying to bring all these people together to solve problems."

Among the center's charter members are Palisade Systems, The Boeing Co., Cargill and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

The new center will focus on near-term cybersecurity issues, unlike the NSF's Global Environment for Networking Investigations, or GENI, initiative, announced last month. Backers of GENI have proposed an NSF project to come up with a more secure, next-generation Internet, but that project would focus its efforts on a futuristic approach.

Instead, the Iowa State center will take a shorter view, Jacobson said. "We're focusing on problems that are a year or two years out," he said. "We're focused on the problems the companies have today."

NSF has funded a number of projects focused on network security since the U.S. Congress passed the Cybersecurity R&D Act in 2002, said Carl Landwehr, coordinator of the Cyber Trust program in the NSF's Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate.

"There's a growing awareness that cybersecurity is limiting what we are confident doing over the Internet," Landwehr said. "The National Science Foundation is trying to address that."

In addition to creating new cybersecurity technology, the new center can also educate people about the importance of cybersecurity and train new experts, Landwehr said. "We need technologists educated in these areas."

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