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MIT Formally Kicks Off Cybersecurity Work

MIT has shared additional details on how it plans to spend a $15 million cybersecurity grant. The multidisciplinary effort will address cybersecurity from three directions: technology, public policy and organizational management.

For the technology angle, Cybersecurity@CSAIL will continue work into hardware- and software-based approaches to computer security. According to Howard Shrobe, a principal research scientist at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and director of the new initiative there, CSAIL will pursue three themes: prevention (designing systems that are harder to hack); resilience (designing systems that can handle secure transactions even after they've been hacked); and regeneration (designing systems that can repair themselves when breaches are detected).

For the organizational side, MIT Sloan's interdisciplinary Consortium for Improving Critical Infrastructure in Cybersecurity, otherwise known as (IC)3, will focus on the human element — how organizations can make sure staff and other internal users don't create security vulnerabilities, intentionally or otherwise.

"Various studies have shown that up to 80 percent of the incidents [of cybersecurity breaches] are aided or abetted by authorized users," said Stuart Madnick, a professor of IT at MIT Sloan and a professor of engineering systems, who will lead (IC)3. "Understanding the organizational, managerial and strategic issues about cybersecurity is of great importance to protecting our critical infrastructure."

Alongside CSAIL and Sloan, MIT's departments of political science and economics, and the Science, Technology, and Society program will also work to understand the security dynamics of large networked systems, with the aim of guiding policymakers.

The funding for the project came from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which announced equivalent grants at the same time for Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley last November.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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