NSRI awarded contract from USSTRATCOM connecting UNL and ISU in cybersecurity research

February 08, 2017

The National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) at the University of Nebraska recently received a contract to conduct cybersecurity defense research for U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM).  The NSRI, a University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) is one of 13 established UARC’s across the nation, delivering relevant and timely research solutions directly impacting Department of Defense (DOD) operations and national security.

Beginning in early February, researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and Iowa State University (ISU), along with cybersecurity industry consultants, will begin collaborations on cybersecurity defense research.  The team will use multiple data sources to identify threats and vulnerabilities that a well-resourced adversary would exploit to disrupt support infrastructure in commercially-available cyber-physical systems supporting operations, telecommunications and information technology systems.  As a follow-up to any discoveries in vulnerabilities, the team will recommend cybersecurity solutions to mitigate identified risks.

“Through this contract, the NSRI is playing a key role in connecting these research opportunities to the researchers at UNL and ISU with USSTRATCOM.  As a result of the contract, NSRI research will identify weaknesses and propose protective and preventive solutions for mitigating vulnerabilities in our nation’s critical infrastructure,” said NSRI Executive Director, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Hinson.
“Our aim is to provide USSTRATCOM with insights into the potential security challenges inherent in today’s cyber-enabled buildings and suggest strategies and cyber-physical security solutions that can reduce risk of attacks and mitigate their effects”, said James Taylor, Senior Research Engineer at the NSRI.  Taylor will serve as principal investigator and will lead the multi-university research team.  “The team we’ve put together includes information technology and cyber-physical professionals who are the best in their fields.  That level of human capital puts us in a great position to provide the cyber-physical security expertise that USSTRATCOM requires.”

Sean Patrick Murphy, founder of Full Stack Data Science, a consulting firm that helps organizations apply advanced data science and machine learning and anomaly detection to realize new value from data, will lend deep expertise as applied to the electric grid, to help ensure the success of the project.

Hamid Sharif, Ph.D., Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Fellow, Charles J. Vranek Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UNL and Director of the Advanced Telecommunications Engineering Laboratory (TEL) at UNL, with his research team will contribute to data collection and analysis of threats and vulnerabilities of a number of Industrial Control System (ICS) devices.  The analysis includes systematic evaluations of device communications, interfaces, and general operational capabilities which will directly contribute to assessing cybersecurity risk evaluations for these ICS devices.

Manimaran Govindarasu, Ph.D., Mehl Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at ISU will focus on qualitative risk assessment of ICS systems, taking into account the unique properties of the ICS devices and platforms.

Laura Nolan, co-founder of TeamWorx Security, a collaborative threat intelligence-based technology company, located in Columbia, Maryland contributes to the research through analysis of industrial control system components for potential vulnerabilities and the assessment of commercially-available ICS monitoring and security systems that may reduce risks to the operational system.

About NSRI
Founded in 2012, the National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) at the University of Nebraska is the only University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) in the country dedicated to delivering solutions for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) to U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) and across other federal agencies.  NSRI provides research and development for the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and other governmental agencies in multiple mission-critical competency areas — including development of medical countermeasures to WMD; nuclear detection and forensics; consequence management; chemical and biological weapons detection; and space, cyber, and telecom law.  Learn more at nsri.nebraska.edu

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