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Dartmouth's Institute for Security Technology Studies launches SISMAT

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 06/23/08 • Media Contact: Sue Knapp • (603) 646-3661

Secure Information Systems Mentoring and Training program aims to cultivate computer security expertise

Dartmouth's Institute for Security Technology Studies (ISTS) recently welcomed seven undergraduates from different colleges for a two-week intensive introduction to computer security in an inaugural program called SISMAT, which stands for Secure Information Systems Mentoring and Training. Students from Dartmouth, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Evergreen State, and the College of New Jersey are on campus from June 16-27.

The 2008 SISMAT group (photo by Mark Washburn)

The crash course on computer security topics fills a void in some undergraduate curriculums, according to Tom Candon, associate director of ISTS. SISMAT brings students to campus to learn from Dartmouth experts.

SISMAT has three components: First, the mini course will focus on Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), which is a means to electronically authenticate identification, and students will also get an introduction to vulnerability and network analysis tools. Second, the program provides opportunities for faculty at the students' home colleges to continue to mentor the student and actively develop security-related curriculum, thus broadening the impact and reach of SISMAT. And third, SISMAT directly assists students in finding summer internships in security-related areas at businesses that include General Dynamics, Ernst and Young, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

"There is an urgent need to bring students up to speed in these topics," says Candon. "The network security field needs professionals with hands-on training in secure systems, but only a few colleges or universities have these programs. SISMAT meets this need."

Left to right: Locasto, Sinclair, and Candon are all involved in SISMAT. (photo by Mark Washburn)

Michael Locasto, a research associate and post-doctoral fellow, developed the SISMAT curriculum. With ISTS colleague Sergey Bratus, he hopes to package the lessons so SISMAT can be duplicated at other institutions with computer security expertise.

"At the end of two weeks, I hope our students have had significant exposure to two crucial security topics: PKI and vulnerability assessment, two areas that are in very high demand in industry, academia, and government," says Locasto. "Within the timeframe of the SISMAT workshop, our goal is to expose the students to a variety of knowledge and resources so that they have enough background to gain traction in security topics related to the course."

Locasto worked closely with Dartmouth Ph.D. student Scout Sinclair, who recognized this need while she was an undergraduate at Wellesley College. She thought of it as a way that Dartmouth could share its expertise in this area. In addition to Locasto and Sinclair, other people involved include Sean Smith, associate professor of computer science; Scott Rea, with the computing services department; and John Marchesini, a former Dartmouth Ph.D. student currently a consultant.

SISMAT is supported through funding from the Department of Homeland Security's National Cyber Security Division.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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