New DHS S&T Program Targets Internet, Critical Infrastructure Disruption

Department of Homeland Security DHS

The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) today announced awards to five research organizations as part of a new program aimed at identifying network and internet disruptions that could “significantly impact critical infrastructure systems” and “other essential systems on which society is dependent.”

The new program – the Predict, Assess Risk, Identify (and Mitigate) Disruptive Internet-scale Network Events (PARIDINE) project – aims to study Network/Internet-scale Disruptive Events (NIDE), which can cut internet or network connectivity, leading to disruptions of “energy and water systems, the finance sector, commerce, and public safety and emergency communications systems, as well as other essential systems.”

To help study, detect, identify, and attribute the root cause of NIDEs, DHS S&T today awarded five grants to the following organizations:

  • Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA), University of California, San Diego
  • SecureLogix, San Antonio, Texas
  • Two Six Labs, Arlington, Virginia
  • University of Southern California Information Sciences Institute (USC-ISI), Los Angeles, California
  • The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand

The awards total $11.6 million, and will aid customers that DHS S&T has already lined up, including the Federal Communications Commission and DHS’ National Protection and Programs Directorate.

“Critical services like energy and water systems, mobile banking and transportation systems are dependent on reliable connectivity and secure operation of the internet,” said William Bryan, senior official performing the duties of the DHS under secretary for S&T. “Disrupted internet connectivity has severe implications for essential aspects of our daily lives, however, we know very little about their causes, mitigation and prevention.”

A prime example of an NIDE flagged by Bryan is border gateway protocol hijacking. “BGP hijacking occurs when a malicious attacker uses false network routing information to distort the internet’s common routing system,” Bryan said. “Incidents of these hijackings have blocked or derailed internet access for millions of people at a time.

In spite of the awareness of the potentially devastating impact of NIDEs, the tools to identify and mitigate them are currently lacking, DHS S&T said.

“These solutions will enhance the ability to identify and report disruptive events that could potentially harm our nation’s networks and critical systems. Through PARIDINE, we look forward to identifying internet outages faster and determining how they occur,” Bryan said.

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