Hariri Institute Director, Azer Bestavros, and Faculty Fellow, Sharon Goldberg, on President Obama’s Cybersecurity Budget Proposals

Budget proposals for the next fiscal year are expected to invest more heavily in research, including studies in the area of cybersecurity, fields in which BU and the Hariri Institute are leading research institutions.

Hariri Founding Director, Azer Bestavros, and Hariri Faculty Fellow Sharon Goldberg both expressed their excitement over the proposed increase for cybersecurity research. The National Science Foundation (NSF), the primary funder of cybersecurity research, may receive up to $150 million for its secure-computing program, a 16% jump from last year and one of the largest increases for a specific program at NSF. Hariri itself has three projects currently funded by NSF, one of which is the Modular Approach to Cloud Security (MACS). This joint project between BU, MIT, Northeastern, and UConn currently receives $10 million in funding.

Sharon Goldberg, a CAS associate professor of computer science, is a MACS researcher and is also engaged in other work that might benefit from any new funding. She says the Obama administration’s strategic plan for cybersecurity research emphasizes cryptography, and “most of my research is concerned with understanding how cryptographic mechanisms can be used to secure core internet protocols.”

Bestavros also voiced his concern that the new technology made possible by funding would go unused in the marketplace. Because bulletproof systems and networks created by researchers such as Bestavros and Goldberg are more expensive than current industry products, the new designs and innovations are seldom adopted into the market. Bestavros states the need for government to create regulations that “make building secure software an expectation.”

The politics and economics are complicated, he concedes. Industry fears that regulation stifles innovation were more valid when the information technology was in its infancy. “I think we have reached a point where we should expect the software development industry to have matured, but that opinion is not shared.”

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