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Schools to make model Net, then break it

The National Science Foundation, working with the Department of Homeland Security, taps two California universities to develop a cyberwar test bed aimed at bettering Internet security.

The National Science Foundation, working with the Department of Homeland Security, has granted $5.46 million to two California universities to develop a cyberwar test bed aimed at bettering Internet security, the universities announced on Wednesday.

Called the Cyber Defense Technology Experimental Research (DETER) network, the digital model for the study of online attacks will be built by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and the Los Angeles-based University of Southern California.

"One of the challenges of creating effective defense programs for attacks from viruses and worms is that they are only tested in moderate-sized private research facilities or through computer simulations that are not representative of the way the Internet works in reality," Shankar Sastry, the UC Berkeley professor that will head the project, said in a statement.


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Sastry, who chairs the departments of electrical engineering and computer science at UC Berkeley, said that the isolated network will help researchers understand the dynamics of attacks on the Internet. The DETER network will basically be the Internet in microcosm, with a similar makeup and operation to the real worldwide network. Researchers will bombard the network with denial-of-service attacks, worms and other hostile acts to see which defenses work.

"Through this project, we will develop traffic models and architectures that are scaled down from the actual Internet, but still representative enough that people can have confidence in it," he stated in the statement.

Eventually, the DETER network will consist of about 1,000 computers isolated from the real Internet. At least three different clusters of computers will make up the network: one at Berkeley, another at the Information Sciences Institute at USC and a third at the ISI's sister institute in Virginia. Companies and academics will be allowed to use the test bed to evaluate their products against real attacks.

Four other academic groups--Pennsylvania State University, the University of California at Davis, Purdue University and the International Computer Science Institute--have been granted $5.34 million to develop ways to evaluate and quantify the success of security technologies.