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Syracuse University’s Center for Systems Assurance receives National Security Agency certification
Syracuse University’s Center for Systems Assurance receives National Security Agency certificationMay 19, 2001Jonathan Hayjhay@syr.edu
The Syracuse University Center for Systems Assurance (CSA) received a boost in reputation, as well as in potential funding and collaborations, when it was recently certified by the National Security Agency (NSA) as a Center of Excellence Program in Information Assurance. According to Steve Chapin, CSA director and associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science in the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), the NSA certification will open doors for the center to collaborate with numerous government, private and educational groups. “To become a Center of Excellence, we had to demonstrate expertise in research, teaching and outreach in information assurance,” Chapin says. “We’ve been designated one of the premier university programs for computer security training in the country, and we’re the only non-government affiliated center in New York state.” The CSA was created last year to provide an interdisciplinary research, development and education program in system security and assurance at SU. Under the auspices of the center, students and faculty conduct leading-edge research on computer programs designed to keep digital information safe from outside “hackers” and to quickly thwart attackers who manage to penetrate a system. In addition to Chapin, ECS faculty members Shiu Kai-Chin, Kamal Jabbour, Susan Older and Steven Taylor are the center’s founders. The center will soon apply for interdisciplinary status, which will draw faculty members from other SU schools and colleges. Chapin says the NSA began the Center of Excellence certifications three years ago because the agency recognized that few students are being trained in computer security and information assurance. To date, 23 universities have been certified. The certification must be renewed every three years, and the first group of designated programs must seek renewal next year. The requirements for acceptance are substantially more difficult than they were three years ago, Chapin says. “I don’t think you will continue to see nine or 10 schools accepted each year, which gives us an advantage because we were accepted under the tougher standards,” he says. “Sue Older deserves a ton of the credit. She put in a lot of work matching the College of Engineering’s educational offerings to NSA requirements. The certification is on a point-based system that accounts for faculty, research and education. We have to score at least a minimum amount in all categories, so we can’t just succeed in one area.” One of the immediate benefits of the NSA certification is a new collaboration between the college and the Air Force Research Labs (AFRL) in Rome. Although the center has worked with the AFRL in the past, students are now eligible to apply for an internship program offered by the federal government to colleges with NSA-certified programs. Students accepted into the program receive full federal scholarships that enable them to earn a master’s degree in computer science with an emphasis on information assurance at SU. Under the program, students spend the first year doing course work at SU, followed by a year’s internship at the AFRL. Upon completion of the AFRL internship, students spend two years working at a Department of Defense research site. “The certification tells people we have good students and train them well, and I believe we will now get a lot more collaborations with the AFRL,” Chapin says. “This is a critically important component of making a pitch to attract excellent students to CSA.” The CSA has already received commitments for $1.4 million in sponsored research grants for its first three years and has a goal of $1 million in annual recurring funding by 2005.