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Protecting open-science research as cyber threats rise

IU-led Trusted CI has been building a reservoir of success for nearly a decade

Security and privacy Apr 19, 2021

How does a research institution…

  • Get public buy-in for a new urban sensor project?
  • Develop cybersecure computing for university researchers?
  • Move research data faster around the world while keeping it secure?
  • Track and protect endangered species while also keeping them safe from poachers?
  • Build secure cyberinfrastructure (CI) and ensure data integrity when one observatory is located on a remote Chilean mountain and the other one is in Hawai’i?

IU-led Trusted CI has solved these problems and more for some 60 engagements funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF Cybersecurity Center of Excellence since 2016, Trusted CI is uniquely positioned to advise the open-science community in the face of increasing cybersecurity attacks.

Because of its open nature, use of unique instruments, large and complex data sets, and rich ecosystems of collaboration, the scientific research community faces unique cybersecurity challenges. Via ransomware and other destructive cybersecurity exploits, university communities not only lose money, productivity, and research data, they can also suffer reputational hits.

Because of its open nature, use of unique instruments, large and complex data sets, and rich ecosystems of collaboration, the scientific research community faces unique cybersecurity challenges.

Trusted CI has nearly 10 years of success in helping NSF researchers identify, manage, and mitigate the risk of cybersecurity exploits. In 2020, Trusted CI began reaching out to its community, gathering the impacts of its engagements, and summarizing them into Trusted CI success stories.

Trusted CI success story examples

The Chicago Array of Things project developed a prototype for a new urban/environmental measurement instrument using sensors. However, the team wanted to address privacy in a transparent fashion and needed community involvement. In 2016, Trusted CI aided the project with public engagement and privacy policy recommendations.

UC Berkeley was looking for experts in higher education cybersecurity and found Trusted CI in 2019. Its Research IT team develops secure computing for its researchers, especially the ones who work with complex and sensitive data like genomes and public health. Trusted CI provided higher ed scientific and cyberinfrastructure expertise for reviewing security consultant recommendations.

TransPAC, one of four grants awarded to International Networks at IU, accelerates research by moving data faster around the world. In 2015, Trusted CI guided TransPAC through new NSF cybersecurity requirements, recommending a security role separate from principal investigator, customized cybersecurity policies, and procedures in case of an incident.

Wildbook contacted Trusted CI in 2016 as it developed a system for tagging endangered species, allowing conservationists to track and protect them. They wanted to make sure their system was not vulnerable to hacking by poachers. Trusted CI recommended a role-based access control security system that has held firm against hacking attempts.

For Gemini Observatory, data integrity was the core issue. The observatory probes the universe with advanced telescopes located in remote mountains in the southern and northern hemisphere. In 2015, Trusted CI provided a roadmap for protecting IT systems and access to the telescope domes and controls. It also recommended cybersecurity training for staff and telescope users.

IU-based Von Welch, director and principal investigator, has led Trusted CI since it was formed in 2012 to provide cybersecurity expertise, training, and research for the higher education and scientific research community. It’s member institutions include IU, the University of Illinois, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, Internet2, and Berkeley Lab. Trusted CI continues to build its reservoir of success stories.

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