$5 million NSF grant to fund cybersecurity research

October 20, 2003

Developing ways to test defenses against attacks on computer networks by hackers, worms and viruses is the aim of a new project by researchers at UC Davis, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University and the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, Calif., supported by a grant of $5.3 million from the National Science Foundation.

The aim of the EMIST project (Evaluation Methods in Internet Security Technology) is to design experiments that represent different kinds of attacks on computer networks and possible defenses against them, said Karl Levitt, a professor of computer science at UC Davis and a co-principal investigator on the project.

The researchers will test defenses against attacks including worms, malicious programs that spread across the Internet; denial-of-service attacks, where hundreds of computers send requests to the same Internet site, aiming to overload it; and attacks on the routing computers that form the backbone of the Internet.

Computer networks and the Internet are increasingly at risk of disruption by such attacks, Levitt said. One area of research is to go beyond using "firewalls" to build active defense systems that communicate with each other and can alert nearby computers when they come under attack.

The experiments will run on a new testbed for cybersecurity research, called the Cyber Defense Technology Experimental Research network (DETER), built by UC Berkeley and the University of Southern California. The testbed is a network of computers that works in the same way as the Internet, but is isolated from the global computer network.

"Clearly, we can't run experiments on the actual Internet without risking damage," Levitt said.
The DETER project is funded by the National Science Foundation in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

University of California - Davis
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