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>  News Releases >   2002 >   January

Dartmouth receives $1.6 million Mellon Foundation Grant

Posted 01/14/02

Internet security research received a big boost recently when the Mellon Foundation awarded a $1.6 million grant to a team of Dartmouth computing researchers.

The grant will enable Dartmouth's Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) team to develop applications that may revolutionize the way colleges and universities conduct academic business. Public keys are a method of cyber-encryption often used by the e-commerce industry. Dartmouth's team, led by Assistant Professor of Computer Science Sean Smith, will develop more secure and effective systems for university-based PKI. It will be designed to make it easier to identify and authorize people who want to use network resources.

"Security on the Internet is still primitive and fallible," said Larry Levine, Dartmouth's director of computing and a member of the PKI team. "There needs to be a more encompassing and trustworthy method of identifying who you are and knowing what you are allowed to do."

By creating an infrastructure to support the secure transmission of data over the Internet, it becomes possible to "know" who a person is without having to meet them first. That may mean that a student can easily register for classes or pick a room online, access library resources, "sign" an e-mail, or participate in an online class taught at another school without having to juggle passwords for each interaction.

"PKI is perhaps the most promising technology for authentication and authorization, but widespread adoption is not trivial," said Ira H. Fuchs, Vice President for Research in Information Technology at the Mellon Foundation. "I look to Dartmouth and its collaborators to bring the benefits of PKI to higher education."

Smith and Levine will work with researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of California at San Diego, Hewlett Packard Laboratories, and from other partner colleges and universities. The team will also benefit from campus-wide expertise from the following Dartmouth personnel: Robert Brentrup, Associate Director of Technical Services; Edward Feustel, Research Associate at Dartmouth's Institute for Security Technology Studies; Denise Anthony, Assistant Professor of Sociology; and David Nicol, Professor and Chair of Computer Science.

The group hopes to run tests on a model system throughout 2002.

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