Visible to the public SoS Musings #11 - What’s the Buzz in Academic Research?Conflict Detection Enabled

SoS Musings #11

What's the Buzz in Academic Research?

Universities are abuzz with cybersecurity research activity. Significant grant money is flowing from industry and government to put our academic institutions to work. And why wouldn't we tap these centers of higher learning with their wealth of faculty and student talent? Faculty need research projects to achieve tenure. Students need projects to achieve course work. It is a win-win for universities and those institutions with unsolved funded research challenges. A quick scan of the Science of Security (SoS) universities sponsored by the National Security Agency Research Directorate and the Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R) as designated by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security results in a broad set of research projects. Although difficult to pigeonhole into categories, one may be surprised by the emerging themes.

In no order of preference or hierarchical importance, here are some areas of interest:

Assured Identity & Privacy: As the number of users and systems interacting with data grows, so do internal and external threats. Identity, Credential and Access Management (ICAM) plays a critical role in protecting data. Many universities are engaged in a full spectrum of research projects that fit under this area of interest. Topics include hardening against counterfeiting and tampering, trust-based approaches for securing mobile peer-to-peer networks, digital supply chains, trusted medical information systems and health informatics, just to name a few.

Forensics: Universities are exploring the use of science and technology in the process of investigating a cyber incident to maximize the effectiveness of proving the perpetrator has committed the malicious act in a court of law. For example, computational models and heuristic algorithms are being developed to improve the overall effectiveness of a cyber crime scene investigation procedure in Digital Forensics.

Human Centric Security: Human-centric places the human front and center. Data is more valuable to the user when it's at the point of access, when it's being displayed and/or used by a person. That's also when it's most vulnerable. Making certain that the data is available and protected at the point of contact between human and information is vital. Research in this area includes phishing, password cracking, biometrics, whitelisting, human factors, trusted collaborative computing, and user authentication across cyberspace.

Network Security: This is a tried and true area of research with deep roots all the way back to the Orange Book days. It will always be with us as long as we have networks. Classic examples include covert communication analysis, secure data architecture, attack path complexities, attack defense development, resilience, intrusion detection systems, protocol vulnerability discovery and risk and vulnerability analysis. With the ever-changing landscape of technology, this research area remains essential to overall security.

Prevention, Detection and Response: Closely related to Network Security, this area peels the onion back a bit more and explores deep into network intrusion detection, attribution, social media analytics, visual analytics, recovery, assessing relationships in hacking and personality traits, psycholinguistics, and tracking sensor networks. It focuses on deployable tactical solutions to harden networks against adversary attacks.

Policy & Law: An increasing area of research across many universities, policy and law is addressing aspects of criminal activities, information privacy, free speech, commerce, international collaboration, intelligence, counterterrorism and national security. Impacts on cyber insurance and setting the norms for legal litigation hang in the balance.

Secure Software: Security flaws and vulnerabilities are all too common in software today. Many universities are conducting research to identify and prevent security flaws during development, where it is much more cost effective than in the test phase or post-deployment.

University cyber security research is healthy. These topic areas merely scratch the surface of broad spectrum research. It appears that cyber security is on everyone's research radar. Funding is rich. Topics are abundant. The next step is to identify the leading cyber security research in critical areas and implement concrete solutions.