By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

Research on the federal government’s cybersecurity efforts over the past 10 years will be discussed at an international cybersecurity conference at Georgetown University by a School of Information Studies (iSchool) professor and doctoral student this week.

Professor Milton Mueller and doctoral student Andreas Kuehn will present at the 12th Workshop on the Economics of Information Security (WEIS 2013) on Tuesday, June 11. Their talk is titled, “Einstein on the Breach: Surveillance Technology, Cybersecurity, and Organizational Change.”

The talk addresses Mueller and Kuehn’s research on a U.S. program called Einstein, in which the government used deep packet inspection to automatically recognize threats on the government’s cyber network, according to Mueller. The study involved a review of whether the use of deep-packet inspection technology leads to more centralized control over the Internet, Mueller said. The research was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Science, Technology and Society program.

The research reflected some issues that mirror similar ones in the news today regarding government security concerns and practices, according to Mueller. 

The research discovered that “there was a big debate going on within the federal government over whether the lead agencies should be military or civilian agencies,” Mueller noted. “There was a competition within the government. The National Security Agency (NSA) produced signatures to indicate threats, contending that the threats should be kept secret, whereas the civilian agencies and the private sector wanted to make them more open.

“Secondly, the NSA was experimenting with various programs of installing sensors and putting them into private sector critical infrastructure. So we found there were pressures to make the security efforts not just focused on the government’s own efforts, but also to extend them into the private sector,” he continued.

Ultimately, Mueller said, the result of that inter-governmental debate “was that a compromise was worked out, where there was joint cooperation between the private sector and the government, because the Department of Homeland Security, a civilian agency, took the lead in managing the program.”

The issues being discussed bear a similar theme to national security issues making headlines today in regard to current controversy over the government’s tracking of cell phone calls. However, those discussions reference a different form of technology, the professor said.

The Workshop on the Economics of Information Security (WEIS) is the leading forum for interdisciplinary scholarship on information security, combining expertise from the fields of economics, social science, business, law, policy and computer science. The international conference is attended by some 200 academic, government, and private sector attendees annually. They include economists, technological security experts, and others who work in the fields of computer science, policy and government and private security.