UT Dallas Leads $2.2 Million Effort to Build
Secure Information Grid for the U.S. Air Force
Aug. 12, 2008
Computer scientists at UT Dallas are leading a $2.28 million project to create a seamless, secure, interconnected information environment that meets the needs of everyone in the U.S. Air Force – from combat pilots to CPAs.
Funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the four-year project employs so-called grid computing, an approach designed to help integrate information from a diverse grid of computers, sensors, databases and other information sources.
But the security of such grids hasn’t received nearly enough attention, according to Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham, director of the UT Dallas Cyber Security Research Center and the project’s principal investigator.
“This project represents the first comprehensive multi-university collaborative effort in investigating security issues for grid computing, including storage, information management and collaboration tools for sensitive data,” she said.
“While many companies are involved in grids, their security model is often not capable of handling the complexity the Air Force deals with, which includes heterogeneous data and diverse partners with different clearances,” she said. “Comprehensive policies for data sharing are extremely critical, and this project should provide fundamental insights into that.”
Balancing the need for information access with the demands of information security is the thorniest task before researchers, she added.
“The most challenging part of the project is to ensure the information grid is secure and at the same time ensure information is managed, shared and disseminated efficiently,” she said.
In addition to addressing an array of security issues, the project will incorporate into the information grid several forms of information that are particularly important to Air Force personnel, including geospatial information (such as maps and satellite photography), intelligence analysis and data from distributed sensors.
Sen. John Cornyn was instrumental in securing funding for the project, which is part of a successful effort by UTD’s Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science to develop strong partnerships and collaborations with industry, other universities and a long list of government agencies, Dr. Thuraisingham said.
“We are becoming a top-tier institution in areas such as data security and knowledge discovery,” she said. “We are also introducing novel new courses on topics such as cloud computing that address the needs of government, industry and academia alike.”
In the past three years, her team has won grants totaling more than $8 million from agencies such as the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, the National Science Foundation, NASA and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.
“We have also formed a strong partnership with corporations such as Raytheon,” she added. “Our goal is to solve problems in both cyber security and national security that are critical to the nation.”
Jonsson School researchers are teaming with researchers from the UT Arlington and Purdue University on the secure information grid project, with nearly $1.4 million of the funding coming to UT Dallas, whose team includes computer science professors I-Ling Yen, Latifur Khan, Murat Kantarcioglu, B. Prabahakaran and Kevin Hamlen.