Cybersecurity research consortium: New tech on the way

Northrop Grumman's partnership with three universities should soon yield results, participants say

An 18-month-old cybersecurity research consortium organized by Northrop Grumman is making progress and should have technologies ready to deploy in about a year, officials said Wednesday.

The Northrop Grumman Cybersecurity Research Consortium, a five-year partnership between the defense contractor and three leading computer science universities, has focused on improving mobile and cloud security and on reducing the cost of recovery from cyberattacks, said Robert Brammer, vice president of advanced technology and CTO at Northrop Grumman Information Systems.

The consortium is an important way for university researchers to tackle long-term issues, not just respond to recent attacks, participants said. "There is no silver bullet here," said Ronald Rivest, a computer science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "We must aim for steady progress here, not perfection."

Cloud computing has been a high priority for the consortium and for Northrop Grumman customers, Brammer said during a press conference to update the consortium's work. The consortium members, also including Carnegie Mellon University and Purdue University, have been researching how to use low-cost processors to perform specialized encryption tasks in a cloud environment and on digital watermarking technologies as a way to establish the integrity of data, he said.

"These projects have shown the ability in a lab environment to withstand various types of cloud cyberattacks," Brammer said. "We're beginning to test these techniques on larger scale [environments]."

Another research area is focused on infrastructure security, with one project working to optimize the configuration and location of security sensors on computer networks. "Our customers are all interested in reducing the fraction of their IT spending on infrastructure so that they can increase the fraction spent on mission-critical capabilities," Brammer said. "The key question here is, given a certain budget for things like firewalls, intrusion detection systems and prevention systems, how do you get the most bang for your buck?"

The sensor research is looking at ways to place sensors in a network "so you don't slow it down, you don't generate too many false alarms, and you don't have to spend too much on sensors," added Eugene Spafford, a computer science professor at Purdue.

One of MIT's research projects is focusing on ways to recover from attacks by returning a computer to a recently clean state, Rivest said. MIT's research is attempting to pinpoint the changes made to a computer's files by malware, then restore them, without discarding legitimate changes made, he said.

"Many machines are compromised daily," he said. "Cleaning up after these inevitable compromises leads to days of wasted effort by either the end users or by systems administrators."

The MIT project seeks to automate system restoration by recording a computer's history and rolling back any changes caused by an attack, he said. MIT researchers have tested the automated system on Linux and found that it can "effectively recover from a number of real-world and synthetic attacks," Rivest said.

In some cases, Northrop Grumman will use the consortium's research in its customers' networks. The universities are also free to seek other ways to commercialize research that they've done in-house, Spafford said.

Asked how they viewed trends in cybersecurity, the experts gave guarded responses. Spafford said he's grown more pessimistic over time about cybersecurity, although there are several "bright spots."

"The pressure for the economics of moving things online is overwhelming common sense," he said. "Too many things are being put online."

Some cloud computing moves are "ill-advised," he added.

More industrial control systems are becoming connected to the Internet, said Richard Power, director of strategic communications at CyLab at Carnegie Mellon. "Everything's running on off-the-shelf software," he said. The electrical grid's growing connection to the Internet "has moved forward for performance, it's moved forward for convenience. It's moved forward in many different ways, but not in terms of security."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Government use of ITsecurityRichard PowerEugene SpaffordPurdue UniversityMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyRobert BrammergovernmentCarnegie Mellon UniversityNorthrop GrummanRonald Rivest

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?