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Dartmouth Institutes Are National Leaders in Protecting Cyber Infrastructure

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In the virtual blink of an eye, our world has transformed from analog to digital. Today digital technology underpins every aspect of our global society, supporting every critical infrastructure-banking, energy, transportation, and consumer goods. "It is a vulnerable position," says Martin Wybourne, Dartmouth's vice provost for research. "In the past two years, billions of dollars have been stolen electronically, millions of identities misappropriated, sensitive financial and health-care data exposed, and intellectual property stolen."
Martin WybourneVice Provost for Research Martin Wybourne (at right) speaks about information security challenges at a fall 2008 forum with a U.S. Senate Committee in Washington, D.C. Dartmouth's Institute for Security, Technology, and Society (ISTS) and its Institute for Information Infrastructure Protection (I3P) bring together experts on cybersecurity. (Photo by Becky Hale)

With the support of U.S. Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), Dartmouth has emerged as an important player in the effort to protect the nation's cyber infrastructure against intrusions. Dartmouth's Institute for Security, Technology, and Society (ISTS) and its Institute for Information Infrastructure Protection (I3P), founded in 2000 and 2002 respectively, bring together a powerful cadre of cyber experts-including faculty, students, and alumni-to address the complexities and challenges of cyberspace.

Judd GreggU.S. Senator Judd Gregg (Courtesy of Senator Gregg)

ISTS focuses on the role of information technology in society as it relates to socioeconomic forces, cultural values, and political influences. Its work is largely performed at Dartmouth. The I3P, a national consortium of 27 member institutions, is a collaborative organization dedicated to addressing some of the major challenges in cybersecurity, including vulnerabilities in the electrical grid, assessing and managing risk, and establishing and securing digital identities. Its work is undertaken by multi-institutional teams.

The idea for the two institutes dates back to a 1998 study conducted by the U.S. President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, recommending that a government-funded, but non-governmental, organization be formed to conduct cybersecurity research. "Senator Gregg took an interest in the subject and played an instrumental role in establishing ISTS and I3P at Dartmouth," says Provost Barry Scherr. "He understood the gravity of the cyber threat to the nation before many others recognized the problem, and he felt that Dartmouth-with a history of excellence in computer science and a strong interdisciplinary and collegial environment-was an obvious choice."

From the outset, the ISTS and I3P have focused on real-world problems that benefit from an approach that cuts across the technical, policy, and social aspects of the issue. By forming multidisciplinary teams, ISTS and I3P realize significant success on such issues as the threats posed by insiders within an organization, the mitigation of vulnerabilities in the oil and gas sector, and the dangers of peer-to-peer file sharing. The work of both institutes is sought-after and has garnered national recognition and impact.

Recently, I3P-hosted forums for the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs resulted in a report, National Cyber Security R & D Challenges, which in turn contributed to a cyberspace policy review directed by President Barack Obama. ISTS has recently received a $3 million award from the National Science Foundation to develop secure computing systems for health-care settings, an initiative that plays a role in the national effort to reform health care.

President Obama has called cybersecurity "one of the most serious economic and national security challenges" today. (Read the article in its entirety here.)

"ISTS and I3P owe their success to the strength of Dartmouth faculty and students and the leadership of Senator Gregg," says Wybourne. "This rare confluence of creativity, leadership, and expertise has founded two institutes that are providing a bridge between the technology, policy, and social aspects of our digital world. They also provide broader benefit by raising awareness and informing policy makers about the complex challenges associated with cyberspace."


Last Updated: 1/12/10