Consortium marks 10 years of research, growth
By Amanda Young, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, November 2, 2012
In the decade since its founding, Dartmouth’s Institute for Information Infrastructure Protection — a consortium consisting of 28 leading academic institutions, national labs and nonprofit organizations investigating national cybersecurity issues — has grown to become a nationally recognized entity. The I3P has solidified an international presence while improving its own internal unity, according to Executive Director Martha Austin and Interim Provost and I3P principal investigator Martin Wybourne.
Altogether, around 120 faculty, undergraduates and postdoctoral students — including Dartmouth computer science, sociology, Tuck School of Business and Thayer School of Engineering professors — have collaborated on more than a dozen projects exploring research topics from technical analysis of process control systems to means of counteracting insider threats within organizations.
“Cybersecurity is no longer just about computer science,” Wybourne said. “There’s a lot of behavioral science, there are other aspects.”
The increasing significance of electronics in individual and organizational lives heightens the importance of cybersecurity, according to sociology professor Denise Anthony, the College’s primary representative to the I3P.
“Our world has moved into an electronic environment, and that’s extremely exciting and provides all kinds of benefits,” she said. “Cybersecurity tries to think ahead to not only what might be potential risks but it also tries to think about technical and policy and other kinds of mechanisms to reduce those risks.”
A 1998 White House study recommended a government-funded non-governmental organization to look at national cybersecurity issues. In response, Dartmouth — favored in part by the legacy of former College President John Kemeny’s accomplishments in computer usage and programming — was chosen to create the I3P with a federal grant.
“That legacy held through and still does hold through to influence people in Washington to think Dartmouth was a very good place to host this organization,” Wybourne said.
As issues change over time, the consortium reconfigures research teams and adds new members with essential expertise, he said.
Since its founding, the sense of unification among I3P members has grown, promoting collaboration and communication.
“When we started, we had 21 members, but they tended to represent their own organizations,” he said. “I think the biggest change I’ve seen is now they come to the table and leave the hats at the door and talk as a group from an IP3 perspective.”
New York University professor Rae Zimmerman, NYU’s primary representative to the IP3, said she appreciates the consortium’s communal aspect, which collects individuals from different disciplines to design a solution to a common problem.
The I3P has gained national recognition, particularly among policymakers in Washington, D.C., according to Wybourne. The consortium has been asked to review and draft federal regulations related to cybersecurity and has facilitated forums sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., he said.
“We are now seen as a trusted entity that is independent of government and we can bring government, industry and academia to the table to have a very open discussion about real challenges,” Wybourne said.
As it moves into the international arena, the I3P is working with seven institutions in seven countries to establish workshops about the science of cybersecurity research, he said.
Anthony said that working with the I3P has proven beneficial to her work as research director of the Institute for Security, Technology and Society at the College.
A variety of Dartmouth graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and at least a dozen undergraduates have acquired research funding via the I3P, according to Anthony.
The consortium receives funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and private industry sources. When building a project, the I3P proposes a topic to a development agency, sets up a team of experts in the consortium and supports the team in conducting research.
The consortium meets three times a year to report progress to member institutions and federal agencies, according to Wybourne.
Zimmerman said that the consortium’s three yearly meetings have contributed to her research on the connection between infrastructure and information technology.
“I think for me it’s wonderful because I learn a lot from the discussions and the presentations,” she said.
On Oct. 10, I3P member institutions gathered in Washington to celebrate the organization’s 10th anniversary, according to Martin. The event featured presentations on members’ research and experiences with the consortium.
Richard Pietravalle — the primary representative for the MITRE Corporation, a nonprofit, federally funded research and development center — said that one of the consortium’s strengths is its ability to provide insight from a range of perspectives.
“This is an excellent way to participate in a collaborative form in order to get those opinions and points of view that we can put to use in our work,” he said.