sealPurdue News

February 1999

Attracting high-tech industry, jobs

Lilly Endowment invests in computer security initiative

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Lilly Endowment has made a significant investment in Purdue University's new information security center in an effort to make Indiana a magnet for high-technology jobs and industry, as well as to safeguard the valuable information that flows through computers throughout the world.

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Eugene Spafford
The three-year, $4.9 million grant will fund operating costs and several new initiatives for Purdue's Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS), the world's first comprehensive information security center, said Robert L. Ringel, Purdue executive vice president for academic affairs.

CERIAS (pronounced "serious") will address issues related to information security from numerous perspectives, including economic and international espionage, sabotage, terrorism and vandalism. Founded in 1998, the Purdue center focuses on finding ways to protect valuable information in all its various forms as it flows through computers -- whether on network cable, disks, faxes or a phone call.

"We were attracted to CERIAS because of its potential to create professional, high-tech economic opportunities in Indiana," said N. Clay Robbins, president of the Lilly Endowment Inc.

"A recent report from the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute says Indiana ranks last among the 50 states in the proportion of our labor force in professional and specialty occupations. We hope that CERIAS -- and other projects at Indiana's colleges and universities -- will spur additional creative responses to this alarming problem from higher education and the business and public sectors in our state."

Shortly after the creation of the CERIAS in May, Purdue awarded $750,000 for its support and appointed Eugene Spafford, professor of computer science, as its director.

"Information assurance and security includes a wide range of important issues," Spafford said. "Network security, communications security, policy development, disaster recovery, investigation of computer crime, employee training and supervision, and protection against defective software all must be addressed.

"The protection of information is a major concern as it relates to national defense, commerce and even our private lives. It also is a business with enormous growth potential. On-line commerce in the United States is predicted to exceed $15 billion annually by the year 2000, and there is a critical shortage of sound technology and well-trained analysts in this field."

Purdue's center will cooperate with the Network Operations Center built in Indianapolis for Abilene, a national wide-area network that will be one of the next generations of high-performance Internet backbones. The network is operated by a consortium of more than 120 universities, including Purdue, and is administered by Indiana University.

Ringel said the Purdue and IU efforts will spur economic development in several ways:

  • Provide the educated labor pool and research support that high-tech companies look for when deciding where to locate.

  • Transfer the ideas and inspirations from these technologies to business and industry and generate spin-off industries that will want to locate near the universities.

    "These efforts will undoubtedly make Indiana a magnet for firms seeking to have access to this exciting new area of technology," Ringel said. "Fortunately, we already are prepared to help new companies get started thanks to our Purdue Research Park, just off our West Lafayette campus.

    "The university plans to make CERIAS a model for other programs designed to draw high-tech firms to the Purdue Research Park, as well as to other sites in Indiana."

    Michael McRobbie, IU's vice president for information technology, in a letter supporting CERIAS, pointed to the potential for IU and Purdue to collaborate "in an area that is right on the frontiers of information technology research -- specifically in the field of the security of high-performance networks where old security paradigms and technologies break down and where new ones are required.

    "Here there is a perfect fit between Purdue's initiative with CERIAS and IU's involvement in high-performance networking," McRobbie said.

    Ringel commented: "Dr. McRobbie's leadership of the Abilene project along with Dr. Spafford's direction of CERIAS will bring together two projects that clearly will establish the state of Indiana as a center of high-performance technology."

    Approximately 6,200 square feet of space in Purdue's Recitation Hall are being renovated to provide offices, laboratories and meeting facilities for CERIAS. About 20 faculty members from seven Purdue departments, plus 30 undergraduate and 15 graduate students, already are involved in research and educational projects associated with CERIAS.

    Although closely associated with the Department of Computer Sciences, CERIAS also involves faculty working in areas such as electrical and computer engineering, sociology, criminology, political science, linguistics, ethics, management and economics.

    The funding will help the center move forward in several areas.

    "This generous Lilly Endowment grant will allow us to establish an active continuing education program, start a K-12 outreach initiative, enhance faculty recruitment and retention, and extend our existing scientific research and education efforts," Spafford said.

    The center works with researchers in industry, government and other academic institutions around the world and provides educational opportunities for both its internal and external audiences. "There is an increasing need for people who can address computer security issues from a number of different perspectives," Spafford said. "We are committed to educating those people -- to ensure that they understand the human, economic and social aspects, too."

    This unique focus has drawn attention and support from a diverse and growing collection of organizations. CERIAS already has partnerships with companies including AT&T Laboratories, San Jose, Calif.; Axent Technologies Inc., Rockville, Md.; Cisco Systems Inc., San Jose, Calif.; Global Integrity Corp., Reston, Va.; Hewlett-Packard Co., Cupertino, Calif.; Intel Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., and Portland, Ore.; Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash.; Mitre Corp., Bedford, Mass.; Schlumberger Ltd., Houston, Texas; Sun Microsystems Inc., Palo Alto, Calif.; and Tripwire Security Systems Inc., Portland, Ore.

    CERIAS will continue to build on the work of the Computer Operations, Audit and Security Technology (COAST) Laboratory, which was established in 1992 in the Purdue Department of Computer Sciences. Research tools and educational materials from COAST have been used by government agencies, businesses and academic institutions worldwide and have been hailed as models for their usefulness.

    More information about CERIAS is available on the web.

    Sources: Eugene Spafford, (765) 494-7825; e-mail,

    Robert L. Ringel, (765) 494-9709

    Andra Short, CERIAS manager of external relations, (765) 494-7806; e-mail,

    Gretchen Wolfram, Lilly Endowment Inc., (317) 916-7304

    Writers: J. Michael Willis, (765) 494-0371; e-mail,

    Susan Gaidos, (765) 494-2081; e-mail,

    Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

    Purdue Professor Eugene Spafford is director of a new multidisciplinary center designed to tackle issues related to information security from a number of perspectives. (Purdue News Service photo by David Umberger)
    Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Spafford.CERIAS
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