Michael Reiter (photo by Kelli Gaskill)
Michael Reiter (photo by Kelli Gaskill)

A $5.8 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will be used by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and five partners for a large research project that will explore challenges in cyber security in the era of cloud computing.

The NSF awarded nearly $20 million to three research projects. The Frontier Awards support collaborative, multi-university research and education activities that will help protect the nation’s vast information infrastructure.

“Cyber security is one of the most significant economic and national security challenges facing our nation today,” said Farnam Jahanian, NSF’s assistant director for computer and information science and engineering.

Michael Reiter, the Lawrence M. Slifkin Distinguished Professor of Computer Science in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, is the principal investigator on the project, “Rethinking security in the era of cloud computing.” Jay Aikat, a research assistant professor in computer science, is the UNC co-principal investigator. Outside partners include Stony Brook, Duke and North Carolina State universities, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and RSA Labs, the research arm of American IT security firm RSA.

Reiter said the vast majority of cloud computing research is driven by the perception that it decreases security for its customers, in comparison to those customers using their own infrastructures.

“Instead we see new opportunities for improving the security of data and services by moving them to the cloud, and we plan on pursuing an aggressive research agenda to realize these opportunities,” he said.

The five-year UNC project, dubbed Project Silver, will address challenges that include secure transport, authorization, user and software authentication and security monitoring, among other areas.

The research team will convene “Cloud Security Horizons” summits with industry stakeholders to contribute to the flow of knowledge between the research team and commercial vendors and cloud operators.

“Through these summits, we hope to not only contribute to industry directions in cloud computing, but also to be informed of real-world problems and challenges,” Reiter said.

Project Silver will also develop teacher workshops which will enable faculty from different institutions to create curricular materials in cloud security and to integrate them into their current course offerings.

For information, visit the project Web site, http://silver.cs.unc.edu.

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