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News

Carnegie Mellon to launch new initiative to ensure Cybersecurity for domestic and commercial sectors

Carnegie Mellon Universtity : 12 November, 2003  (New Product)
Carnegie Mellon University is scheduled today to announce an integrated initiative designed to ensure safety for every computer log-on, including a broad range of home users to small businesses and large corporations. To achieve this goal, the university will combine its existing expertise and related research centers under one umbrella organization called Carnegie Mellon CyLab.
CyLab builds upon the university's proven problem-solving approaches and a record of interdisciplinary research with more than 50 researchers and 80 students from the College of Engineering, the School of Computer Science, the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management and the CERT Coordination Center. The CERT/CC is part of the Software Engineering Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense. The CERT/CC also partners with the Department of Homeland Security in the activities of the U.S. CERT.

'Securing the nation's critical infrastructure requires proactive protection, effective detection and immediate response to threats,'said Jared L. Cohon, Carnegie Mellon president. 'Our new CyLab is designed to work with speed and great efficiency to shore up security breaches that can compromise the Internet-based electronic ties that enhance communications and services that bind so many enterprises together into a network that is the foundation of our economic prosperity,' Cohon said.

Pradeep Khosla, Dowd Professor, head of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon and CyLab co-director, said the new lab will bring together the university's expertise in information assurance, including research and development, public policy, response and prediction.

'We will ensure privacy and security by tackling cybersecurity issues from a variety of angles,' Khosla said. 'In cyberspace, threats move very quickly. This is not just a national security issue, but it is a national economy issue too.' Carnegie Mellon's new CyLab will help stimulate cooperation between government and business to protect information networks.

'At Cisco, we share Carnegie Mellon's vision that a comprehensive information security initiative integrating response, prediction, research and education is the best way to address the problem of securing the nation's infrastructure,' said Greg Akers, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Cisco Systems, a San Jose, Calif.-based company that enables customers to build large-scale integrated computer networks.

'We look forward to helping CyLab craft a focused research initiative centered on tools, technologies and practices to improve dependability, secure the Internet, embed security in computer and communications systems, and design a public/private partnership to accelerate outreach training and education,' Akers said.

'Microsoft applauds the founding of the CyLab at Carnegie Mellon University,' said Rick Rashid, senior vice president for Microsoft Research. 'Cyber security is a critical issue facing our nation and our society, and one that requires a comprehensive approach in order to make real progress. Carnegie Mellon's outstanding credentials and its history of successful interdisciplinary research position it to be a leading university and a major contributor in this area. We look forward to collaborating with the CyLab and we wish it great success in its mission.'

U.S. Representative Mike Doyle, D-Pa.14th District, said that cutting-edge research is critical to the future of our nation. 'Our economic well-being and our public safety both depend on maintaining the security of our nation's information technology systems. Carnegie Mellon has developed tremendous expertise in this field, and the federal government should be taking full advantage of it,' Doyle said.

'That's why I worked hard to secure $2.5 million last year and $6 million this year for Carnegie Mellon's integrated cybersecurity research and response program. I was pleased that I was able to convince my colleagues in Congress to fully utilize this truly national asset by making this investment in research at Carnegie Mellon's CyLab,' Doyle said.

Already, Carnegie Mellon researchers are developing computer components such as hard drives and network cards that will be able to defend themselves, and ultimately each other, from attack. The problems continue to grow. In fact, during the first nine months of 2003, more than 114, 000 incidents of virus attacks and other computer breaches were reported to Carnegie Mellon's CERT Coordination Center.

'Since September 11, 2001, much has changed in the way people think about security,' said Richard D. Pethia, director, CERT Coordination Center. 'Our definition has broadened, our understanding of increasing threats has sharpened and our ideas about how to protect and preserve our national security have evolved in new ways,' he said.

And because the Internet is still susceptible to viruses, computer intrusions and cyberterrorism, the new CyLab will focus on developing cutting-edge technologies related to security in distributed systems and wireless and optical networks as well as new technologies to guarantee the privacy of information.

CyLab will support Carnegie Mellon's ongoing CyberCorps program and its vision of making 10 million home users more savvy about cybersecurity. Carnegie Mellon received $6.1 million through the Army Research Office to pursue research, development and education in security.

Carnegie Mellon has one of the most technologically sophisticated campuses in the world. When it introduced its 'Andrew' computing network in the mid-1980s, it pioneered educational applications of technology. Technology is pervasive on its 110-acre campus where 5,000 undergraduate students and 3,000 graduate students receive an education characterized by its focus on problem-solving, interdisciplinary collaboration and access to research projects.

Terry Collins Develops 'Green' Catalysts for Potential Use in Industry and Biological Warfare
Fe-TAML activators could be used to decontaminate anthrax

Terry Collins, the Thomas Lord Professor of Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, has developed environmentally safe oxidation catalysts that can be used to decontaminate biological weapons, such as anthrax, and eliminate toxic residues produced by several industries. Members of Collins' laboratory presented the latest findings on this work at the recent American Chemical Society meeting in New York City.

The oxidation catalysts, called Fe-TAML (TAML stands for tetra-amido macrocyclic ligand) activators, are made from elements found in nature and work in combination with hydrogen peroxide to convert harmful pollutants into less toxic or harmless substances. Fe-TAML research is the keystone of Collins' work.

Collins heads Carnegie Mellon's Institute for Green Oxidation Chemistry in the Mellon College of Science. IGOC pursues research, education and development of holistic approaches in green chemistry. The institute emphasizes replacing polluting technologies with benign, green alternatives.

Fe-TAMLs, groundbreaking from both an environmental and a scientific perspective, could potentially be used to replace chlorine-based oxidants in large global technologies so toxic industrial residues are not produced. The activators also show great promise to address problems such as general water purification.

At the ACS meeting, Collins and his research group discussed Fe-TAMLs' effectiveness in killing an anthrax simulant (a benign form of the deadly biological warfare agent), reducing fuel pollutants, detoxifying pesticides, treating pulp and paper processing byproducts, cleaning wastewater from textile dye manufacturing and catalyzing chemical reactions with oxygen instead of hydrogen peroxide.

Tests show that a Fe-TAML activator used with hydrogen peroxide can substantially decontaminate a cultured, benign simulant of anthrax. This anthrax simulant is commonly used in the laboratory testing of agents designed to eliminate its more deadly cousin, which is considered a significant biological warfare and terrorist threat.

'In our laboratory tests, Fe-TAMLs are highly promising in cleaning up an anthrax simulant, Bacillus atrophaeus,' Collins said. 'These results indicate the enormous potential of Fe-TAMLs to kill the lethal strain of anthrax and to eradicate other water-borne infectious microbes that account for significant death and disability worldwide.'

Collins said Fe-TAMLs can also remove more than 85 percent of recalcitrant sulfur compounds in refined automotive fuels. With further development this technology may provide an attractive alternative to existing methods that rid fuels of sulfur contaminants associated with serious human health problems and contribute to acid rain. These same contaminants also cause engines to burn fuel less efficiently.

Collins' research team also has found that Fe-TAML activators and hydrogen peroxide appear to totally break down some organophosphorus compounds, a widely used class of agricultural pesticides. Although effective at curbing insect damage to crops, some organophosphorus compounds have been associated with neurotoxicity and other health problems.

Toxic compounds and colored pollutants resulting from paper and wood pulp processing can be destroyed using Fe-TAML activators.

'Right now, we can use Fe-TAMLs with hydrogen peroxide to clean up the unsightly color from chlorine-based bleaching processes used by mills to make paper and the chlorinated byproducts of those processes, which are considered a potential health hazard,' said Collins, who describes the results of the decolorization as going from 'coffee' to 'lemonade.'

Textile mills also may be able to use Fe-TAMLs to significantly decolorize dyes found in their wastewater. By using Fe-TAMLs, textile mills could increase the amount of dye removed from mill effluent, according to Colin Horwitz, a research associate professor at Carnegie Mellon, who added that employing Fe-TAML activators could enable manufacturers to recycle water used in textile dyeing. This step would reduce overall plant costs and save millions of gallons of water yearly over the entire industry.

The Collins' group has shown that Fe-TAMLs can work with oxygen in addition to hydrogen peroxide, thereby extending the range of applications made possible through the use of Fe-TAML. These latest findings have the potential to extend the use of Fe-TAML activators to remediate environmental problems and to modify industrial processes to make them more efficient and productive.

Collins' research team consists of four senior researchers, one postdoctoral appointee, six graduate students and three undergraduates. The team has been awarded numerous U.S. and foreign patents covering the composition of Fe-TAML catalysts and their methods of use in a wide number of applications. The number of patents continues to grow as work on Fe-TAML activators progresses.
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