Army announces Cybersecurity Collaborative Research Alliance to explore underlying cyber science

By U.S. Army Research Laboratory public affairsOctober 15, 2013

U.S. Army Research Laboratory
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ADELPHI, Md. (Oct. 15, 2013) -- Cybersecurity is critical to protecting Army systems from sophisticated attacks on military networks in the face of ever increasing importance of cyber systems.

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory has established a Collaborative Research Alliance, or CRA, which will include an alliance of ARL, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, academia and industry researchers to explore the basic foundations of cyber science issues in the context of Army networks.

A cooperative agreement was awarded to the consortium, Sept. 20, led by Pennsylvania State University, and including Carnegie Mellon University, Indiana University, the University of California at Davis, and the University of California Riverside.

The Army will fund the alliance for five years, with an optional five-year renewal at $3.3 million to $5.2 million annually.

"The CRA gives us an opportunity to jointly advance the theoretical foundations of a science of cybersecurity in the context of Army networks," said Dr. Ananthram Swami, who was recently announced as the Collaborative Alliance Manager, ARL, for the cybersecurity CRA. "Such a science will eventually lead to network defense strategies and empirically validated tools. Substantial interactions and staff rotations between domain experts and scientists across the consortium and ARL will be vital to enable the joint research that will ensure the success of the program."

The hallmark of ARL's CRAs is that alliance members work interdependently throughout the scientific process.

"We generally enter into these kinds of alliances with complex problems in mind," said Dr. John Pellegrino, director of the ARL directorate that manages the CRA, Computational and Information Sciences Directorate. "The fundamental science of cybersecurity is a long-standing challenge that will take a long time to solve."

ARL has identified three interrelated aspects of cybersecurity to explore and a cross-cutting psychosocial perspective that takes into account the human element of the network.

The study of the human element is a particularly distinctive aspect of the research, Pellegrino said. Each of the three research focus areas -- named Risk, Detection and Agility -- must take into account the people behind the cyber actions -- human attackers, cyber defenders and end users.

Dr. Alexander Kott, ARL CISD associate director for science and technology, explains the three research areas this way.

The first area, Risk Research, seeks to develop theories and models for dynamic risk assessment and explores risk-related fundamental properties of dynamic cyber threats, Army networks, and defensive mechanisms.

The next, Detection Research, should shape cyber threat detection and recognition capabilities that inform approaches to rapid adaptation of a detection technique or algorithm as new cyber threats emerge on the battlefield, he said.

And finally, he said, Agility Research supports planning and control of cyber maneuvers, which are ways to rapidly adjust our networks and defenses in order to defeat or mitigate cyber threats and effects.

"When we talk about a collaborative research alliance, one of the key values of this mechanism is that we are educating the academic community in the types of problems and unique challenges that the Army needs to have addressed," Kott said. "We are influencing and guiding the research community toward developing research skills particular to that niche."

Similar alliances exist at the lab for collaborative research in advanced electronic materials and materials in extreme dynamic environments, Kott said.

In the case of cybersecurity, ARL has had a strong internal program for years, in part to defend the Army supercomputing resources. The ARL Supercomputing Research Center had a ribbon-cutting earlier this year to mark an expansion and greater high-performance in-house computing capability, Pellegrino added.

But new, evolving cyber challenges require an even deeper look into the foundation of the problem. Technical leaders are preparing for the Army of 2020 and beyond.

Future Army networks will be heterogeneous and convergent, comprising a wide variety of fixed wired networks, mobile cellular networks, and mobile ad-hoc networks, he said.

The dynamics, scale and complexity of Army networks coupled with evolving, advanced, persistent threats makes cybersecurity a grand challenge that will require multi-disciplinary experts working together, Pellegrino said.

Although we expect pockets of near-term results that we could apply rapidly, this alliance is a long-term commitment to laying a framework towards solutions into the future 10, 15, and even 20 years away, he said.

The cybersecurity CRA is a critical ARL-CERDEC collaborative venture that seeks to significantly advance the state of cyber science with principles that lead to rapid development of tools for home and abroad. The alliance has strong links to the Army Cyber Strategy.

The Consortium Program Manager is Professor Patrick McDaniel of PSU.

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