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Abqjournal.com-Sandia Creates Cyber Security Institute

Abqjournal.com-Sandia Creates Cyber Security Institute

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Published by Jared Saia

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Published by: Jared Saia on Jan 03, 2013
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Sandia creates cyber security institute
Cyber security research engineer Kevin Nauer works at a mobile file server at Sandia National LabsCyber Engineering Research Institute. (DEAN HANSON/JOURNAL)When a rogue nation took over computer controls at multinational coffee company “SchmucksBucks” this summer to shut it down, computer engineering students counterattacked at SandiaNational Laboratories.Student teams hacked in to turn the brewer back on, in effect, providing fresh cups of coffee allaround.While fun and educational, the training exercise at Sandia’s Cyber Engineering Research Instituteoffered a hands-on simulation for real-world scenarios, albeit for enemy attacks on nationalinfrastructure and industries, said Kevin Nauer, a computer forensics expert at the institute’sResearch Engineering Cyber Operation and Intelligence Lab.Sandia’s newly created cyber institute, established in 2011, regularly conducts such exercises toencourage computer professionals to work in teams to resolve cyber threats. It’s part of theinstitute’s mission to build partnerships with academia and industry to train cyber security
specialists and develop new ways to protect online networks.“We want to get people together in synthetic task environments to develop a foundation of skillswhere everyone is operating off the same sheet of music,” Nauer said. “We bring people into a ‘live’environment that pits them against one another in weeklong games. We throw attacks at teamsfor them to figure out how to respond.Researcher Ann E. Speedworks at the Cyber Engineering ResearchInstitute.
Sharing cyber expertise
The institute allows Sandia to share national laboratory expertise in cyber defense withuniversities and industry, said Director Rob Leland. That’s critical, given the increasing number andsophistication of cyber threats and the range of potential enemies, including adverse nations,terrorist networks, organized crime and individual hackers.“Our overall goal is to get all three sectors cooperating together,” Leland said. “Through outreach,we want to bring our capabilities to bear on problems and issues at the community level.That reflects a newfound openness at Sandia.“Sandia’s responsibility for the cyber security aspects of the nuclear program, providing computer security for weapons, goes back decades,” said Senior Manager Ben Cook. “But now there’s amore general, national need for these capabilities …We want to connect more effectively (withcommunities) to create a two-way interchange of people and ideas.The institute is divided into two divisions. The Cyber Engineering Research Lab, which employsabout 100 Sandia specialists at a 25,000-square-foot facility at the Sandia Science andTechnology Park in Albuquerque is one. And a Cyber Technology Research Lab in Livermore, Calif.,that provides closer communication with industry and academia in the Silicon Valley, is the other.
Improving cyber defenses
 Apart from training, the institute conducts extensive research to improve cyber defensecapabilities. That includes assessing human strengths and vulnerabilities when working in cyber security, said Chris Forsythe, a psychologist and cognitive science specialist.“We focus on the human dimension of problems,” Forsythe said. “We can put a lot of technicalsolutions in place, but at the end of the day, there’s a human in the loop. We have to arrive atsolutions that take into account their issues and problems and how they learn and solve things.Sandia’s cognitive systems group, for example, uses electroencephalography (EEG) sensors tomonitor subjects’ brain activity in memory and other performance tests in a lab at the institute.That helps to better understand how people learn, which could show ways to improve decision-making and human performance in detecting and resolving problems in cyber security and other areas, Forsythe said.Sandia National Labs’ Cyber EngineeringResearch Institute. (DEAN HANSON/JOURNAL)Other research focuses on data analytics, taking massive amounts of information and extractingthings to detect potential problems.“We need to detect anomalies in network traffic, which means analyzing huge sets of data todetermine what’s happening at the host and network levels,” Cook said. “We want to makecomputer systems inherently more secure by eliminating vulnerabilities that emerge because of thecomplexity of systems.
UNM, N.M. Tech involved
Sandia specialists are collaborating on research projects with the University of New Mexico andthe New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro.UNM computer science professor Jared Saia is helping the institute develop technology that couldallow private and public entities to share information from data centers without compromisingindividual privacy or proprietary resources. That could shore up efforts to detect suspiciousactivities on networks.In addition, investigative queries often require only certain blocks of data, so UNM and Sandia aredeveloping ways for collaborators to send targeted sets of information, Saia said.

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