NSF awards grants totaling $20 million for cybersecurity research


The National Science Foundation has made three large "Frontier" awards worth almost $20 million to support collaborative, multi-university research and education activities in the area of cybersecurity, according to an agency announcement.

Frontier awards go to "large, multi-institution projects that address and heighten the visibility of grand challenge research areas in science and engineering with broad economic and scientific impact," says the release.

The awards are funded under NSF's interdisciplinary Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program, which seeks proposals that address cybersecurity in one or more of the following categories: trustworthy computing systems, social, behavioral and economics, and transition to practice.

"Cybersecurity is one of the most significant economic and national security challenges facing our nation today," said Farnam Jahanian, NSF's assistant director for computer and information science and engineering, in a written press release statement.

"NSF's investments in foundational research will transform our capacity to secure personal privacy, financial assets, and national interests. These new Frontier awards will enable innovative approaches to cybersecurity, with potential benefits to all sectors of our economy," added Farnam.

One of the Frontier projects will leverage the trustworthy health and wellness, or THaW, project that will be part of a research initiative on information systems and health care at Dartmouth College's Institute for Security, Technology, and Society. The project will address challenges to providing trustworthy information systems for health and wellness as the result of sensitive information and health-related tasks being increasingly pushed into mobile devices and cloud-based services. The THaW team will work to develop usable authentication and privacy tools, trustworthy control of medical devices and effective methods to detect malware, compute trust metrics and audit medical information systems and networks.

Another project includes a multidisciplinary team of researchers from six organizations, led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, that will explore ways in which computer security may make significant leaps forward in a cloud computing environment. This project will develop novel and improved solutions for unified authentication and authorization and auditing across diverse services; effective monitoring and diagnosis for security management of services, networks, datacenters and users; and pervasive encryption to, from and within the cloud.

Yet another project receiving NSF funding will research how to improve the usability of privacy policies. Specifically, the team of researchers from  Carnegie Mellon University, Fordham University, and Stanford University will develop scalable technologies to semi-automatically extract key privacy policy features from website privacy policies. It will then present these features to users in an easy-to-digest format that enables them to make more informed privacy decisions as they interact with different websites.  

The three new Frontier projects are part of more than 110 new cybersecurity research projects being funded in 33 states, with award amounts ranging from about $100,000 to $10 million. In fiscal year 2013, the SaTC program, which is in its third year, expanded to include for the first time NSF's Directorate for Education and Human Resources and the Directorate for Engineering, in addition to ongoing participation by CISE and the Mathematical and Physical Sciences, and Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences directorates.

In December 2011, the National Science and Technology Council with the cooperation of NSF issued a federal strategic plan (.pdf) for cybersecurity research and development to "change the game," minimize the misuses of cyber technology, bolster education and training in cybersecurity, establish a science of cybersecurity, and transition promising cybersecurity research into practice.

For more:
go to the NSF press release

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