U.C. Berkeley to head cybersecurity project

University is tapped by the National Science Foundation to lead a $19 million cybersecurity project.

Matt Hines Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Matt Hines
covers business software, with a particular focus on enterprise applications.
Matt Hines
2 min read
The University of California, Berkeley, will lead a $19 million government-funded project to research how to best protect the nation's computing infrastructure.

The announcement, made by the National Science Foundation late Monday, makes U.C. Berkeley one of two U.S. schools receiving funds this year to establish a Science and Technology Center.

The NSF research efforts, which are aimed at promoting interdisciplinary studies in science, will also expand to the University of Kansas this year. The Kansas Science and Technology Center will tackle issues related to polar ice sheets.

According to the NSF, the cybersecurity project at Berkeley will investigate issues of "computer trustworthiness in an era of increasing attacks at all levels on computer systems and information-based technologies." The project will receive the $19 million in funding over five years, as will the Kansas study.

Ironically, news of the Berkeley cybersecurity research project comes just weeks after the school warned more than 98,000 people that their personal information may have been exposed following the theft of a laptop computer from its graduate school admissions office. Such losses of individuals' private information have become a hot-button issue among federal legislators, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) proposing Monday a new version of her ID Theft Notification Bill.

A number of other schools will join the Berkeley effort, forming a group that the research project has dubbed the Team for Research in Ubiquitous Secure Technology (TRUST). Among the institutions joining the effort are Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University, Mills College, San Jose State University, Smith College, Stanford University and Vanderbilt University. On a U.C. Berkeley Web site, TRUST said it will perform research in the areas of security science, systems science and social science.

A collection of corporations will also help promote the research, including BellSouth, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Sun Microsystems and Symantec.

S. Shankar Sastry, a U.C. Berkeley professor of computer sciences and director of TRUST, considers cybersecurity an issue of critical importance.

"The cybersecurity community has long feared that it would take an electronic Pearl Harbor for people to realize the scale of disruptions possible from a concerted attack by terrorists," Sastry said in a statement.

The National Science Foundation said the TRUST effort will specifically investigate the integration of computing and communication technologies across "critical infrastructures" in areas such as finance, energy distribution, telecommunications and transportation.