MIT launches a trio of new cybersecurity initiatives

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To prepare for a future in which the watches on our wrists and the locks on our doors are all trading electronic information, MIT has launched a 200-person cybersecurity research initiative that will tackle tech security problems both big and small. The initiative has three parts, each approaching the problem from a different angle.

The first, Cybersecurity@CSAIL will build technical tools to thwart vulnerabilities, for example, by engineering more secure hardware, or developing cryptographic protocols that are easy to use but also secure.

The second, MIT’s Cybersecurity and Internet Policy Initiative will corral policy analysts, economists, and computer scientists to inform researchers about pressing problems, and teach lawmakers how to become better versed in more technological matters.

Finally, the Interdisciplinary Consortium for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, or IC3 will find ways to make large corporations more secure, by better training employees, for example, or adopting better habits to secure data in-house.

The massive 200-person team will include both researchers and students.

The groups have already begun to securing partnerships with companies, some of which are funding the programs — ExxonMobil, Schneider Electric, Limelight, NextNine have promised to back IC3, while Cybersecurity@CSAIL has found partners in BAE Systems, BBVA, Boeing, BP, and Raytheon.

IC3 has already launched pilots with some partners to assess how secure those organizations are, and is also finding ways in which “management and policy can be adjusted to improve security,” said the program’s director, Stuart Madnick, who shares appointments at the Sloan School of Management and the School of Engineering.

Daniel Weitzner, a CSAIL professor who also spent time as the deputy chief technology officer for Internet policy in the White House, will lead the policy program, which is funded by the Hewlett Foundation. Lawmakers, he said, lack the technological background to make informed policy decisions. The new project hopes to help better inform them.

“We feel the urgency but we really lack the guidance to have a coherent, mature public policy debate,” Weitzner said. Besides informing lawmakers, the program will also help researchers focus on critical real-world problems.

Image via Flickr user Justin Jensen

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and research. Email her at nidhi.subbaraman@globe.com.
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