POTSDAM — Clarkson University has received $480,000 of a $1.2 million National Science Foundation grant to work with four other institutions to create software to improve the safety of cyber transactions.
Professor Christopher A. Lynch, chairman of Clarkson's division of math and computer science, is lead investigator for the project.
He will work with researchers from SUNY Albany, the University of New Mexico, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory to produce a computer program that can detect weaknesses in the cryptographic protocols that protect information.
"A protocol is a way of passing messages back and forth. We use encryption to encrypt the data to make sure nobody can read it. Even if it's perfectly secure, you still have bad things that can happen because of the message passing back and forth," Mr. Lynch said.
The scientists hope to use logic algorithms to quickly simulate all of the things that can go wrong when information is sent through protocols so they can find problem areas where security should be improved.
Protocols are used along with encryption not only for Internet transactions, but also to ensure the privacy of wireless phone calls and to protect infrastructure.
"You can imagine, everything we do nowadays involves computers, whether it's small things like buying something online without somebody stealing your credit card number, or it's also big things, like all of the country's infrastructure, the military and the government's secret communications," Mr. Lynch said. "Some of these attacks are so subtle."
Mr. Lynch said the goal is to create an effective, widely available software so individuals and protocol developers can analyze the security of their programs and even automatically detect attacks.
"Elected officials in Washington are calling for a national priority response to the daily attacks on our government and private computer data. Clarkson University is pleased to play a role in developing the software which could play an important role in alleviating this problem by helping to secure our country's cyberspace," college President Anthony G. Collins said in a statement.