FBI launches cybersecurity project

The FBI has chosen the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to host a new law enforcement cybersecurity research center.

The bureau said it would provide $3 million to support the first two years' operation of the National Center for Digital Intrusion Response. The new center represents an expansion of the FBI's existing work with the university, which also receives funds from other federal agencies to carry out cybersecurity research and development.

'This effort will benefit the scientists, engineers and other researchers who use cyber-resources at NCSA and other federal centers by protecting the cyberinfrastructure they rely on,' said NCSA Director Thom Dunning in an FBI press statement released earlier this month. 'NCSA and the University of Illinois have been and continue to be at the forefront of developing, deploying and safeguarding advanced computing resources.'

The bureau said the state university's IT security scholars would work with FBI cybersecurity specialists to understand what new capabilities are required to better detect and investigate cyberattacks, develop new tools and ensure that FBI agents in the field can use them effectively.

The NCSA has 22 years of experience in protecting high-performance computers from cyber attacks, the bureau said. The work has included developing software for data analysis, visualization, collaboration and communication, the FBI said.

'It's about understanding what's needed to solve cases and protect the cyberinfrastructure which is so critical to our national way of life,' according to a prepared statement by Von Welch, leader of NCSA's Security Research and Development division and a member of NCDIR's leadership team. 'NCDIR has evolved from the decade-long engagement NCSA has had with the FBI, which has included working with them on multiple investigations, often leading to arrests.'

The bureau's expansion of its work with the university team reflects changes in the patterns of crime and national security threats, the FBI said.

'While cyberattacks were once considered a specialized niche in law enforcement, today there are digital aspects to many crimes and national security threats; all investigators must be able to pursue criminals operating in cyberspace,' the FBI said. 'NCDIR will provide training, including intensive summer workshops, so all FBI agents have the opportunity to use these new tools in the field.'

According to a bureau description of the NCSA's work, the university's IT security team leads the National Center for Advanced Secure Systems Research and collaborates with other scholars via the Information Trust Institute.

NCSA has been funded by the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies to develop IT security tools and projects such as:

'We are very excited about the opportunities offered by partnering with such knowledgeable and trusted colleagues,' said John H. Stafford, acting special agent in charge of the FBI's Springfield division.

'NCSA brings to the table an extraordinary level of experience in navigating the complex landscape of the Internet, which NCDIR will leverage to advance the capabilities of the FBI,' Stafford said. 'This will serve to bring to justice not only sophisticated criminal organizations, but also to better defend cyberspace against terrorist attacks and hostile intelligence organizations.'

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