University of Pittsburgh
August 14, 2008

Cyber Attacks on Georgia Preceding Russian Conflict Herald Cyberspace as New Battlefield in Modern Warfare, Pitt Network-Security Expert Says

Pitt professor James Joshi available to speak about vulnerability of national networks vital to communication and function Pitt a federally designated center for network-security research by NSA and Homeland Security
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-As governments become more dependent on computers, cyber-attacks akin to those on the country of Georgia's servers preceding its conflict with Russia will evolve into a common military tactic-with increasingly devastating results.

University of Pittsburgh professor and information systems-security expert James Joshi is available to speak about the vulnerability of the computer infrastructures that such nations as the United States rely on to communicate, store information, and manage nearly every aspect of daily life from electrical grids to air traffic.

To match their far-reaching destruction, cyber-attacks are cheaper than conventional military attacks, would require only a few people, and can be launched from anywhere in the world by perpetrators who can easily hide their identity and location, Joshi said. On the other hand, most nations maintain massive computer systems that constantly interact with computers around the world-which makes them nearly impossible to fully protect, Joshi said.

"Many systems that are in place were never built with security in mind-even American cyberspace is still very vulnerable," Joshi said. "Information networks are now considered critical infrastructures of a country like the United States and are likely be primary targets in modern warfare. A nation's information infrastructure represents its ability to efficiently communicate and stores sensitive information and processes that are vital to its societal functions. A coordinated attack could have disastrous national fallout."

Pitt is one of approximately 20 universities in the country designated as National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Research by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. These universities work with the U.S. government to produce professionals well trained in information-security and can assume the responsibility of defending the national cyberspace. Pitt's involvement hinges on its Laboratory of Education and Research on Security Assured Information Systems (LERSAIS) in the School of Information Sciences, a network-security research center that Joshi cofounded.

Contact James Joshi at jjoshi@mail.sis.pitt.edu or through Morgan Kelly.

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