MIT introduces 3 new Cyber Security Programmes

Looking to find new solutions in the fight against digital breaches, MIT is set to launch three new research programs next week that will seek to confront the technical, regulatory and business challenges presented by cybersecurity.

The three “institute-wide” initiatives, headed by both the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and the MIT Sloan School of Management, will officially be launched on March 12.

For MIT Professor of Information Technology Stuart Madnick and CSAIL director Daniela Rus, the inception of these programs comes at a time when both the risk and impact of cyber attacks is at an all-time high.

“The danger is increasing and accelerating,” Madnick said, adding: “The attackers are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, as we’ve seen over time from going back to the TJX break-in to the Target break-in to Sony and so on. … The worst is yet to come in terms of what kind of impact the threat of cybersecurity is going to be.”

“Cybersecurity breaches happen on a daily basis all over the world,” Rus said via email. “Just this past month it was revealed that, in the past two years, a ring of cyber-criminals stole upwards of $1 billion dollars from as many as 100 financial institutions around the world. In total, cybercrime has been estimated to cost the global economy more than $400 billion dollars a year.”

The first program, [email protected], is a new endeavor led by Dr. Howard Shrobe, associate director of CSAIL, which will gather experts in software, hardware, cryptography and other outlets in order to collaborate on new measures to both prevent and deal with Web-based attacks.

“That’s focused very much at improving the quality of the hardware and the software that we use to make them more cybersecure,” Madnick said of the CSAIL program.

MIT’s second new program, the MIT Cybersecurity Policy Initiative, is an integrative program that was established thanks to a $15 million grant from the Hewlett Foundation. Run by Daniel Weitzner — former U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Internet Policy in the White House — the initiative will compile researchers from across MIT in the hope of establishing the framework for a new cyber policy.

The final new program, known as the Interdisciplinary Consortium for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, will be led by Madnick and will tackle the issue of improving the cybersecurity of crucial infrastructure by looking at the strategic and operation issues presented by digital defense methods.

“[The consortium] focuses very much on what’s often overlooked, which is the managerial, organizational and strategic aspects of cybersecurity. … This is a very different line of research than we have seen in the past,” Madnick said, continuing: “That is why it’s kind of a unique attempt to look at cybersecurity with a whole set of fresh perspectives.”

MIT will host a launch event for the new initiatives, titled “Cybersecurity at MIT” at the Kirsch Auditorium on March 12. Guests such as MIT President L. Rafael Reif and MIT Vice President for Research Maria T. Zuber are expected to attend the event, which will consist of talks and interview opportunities with multiple MIT cybersecurity professionals.


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