U researchers develop surveillance software

The system could fend off attacks on military computers.

Branden Peterson

To keep in step with national security upgrades since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, University researchers have developed a computer surveillance program designed to better secure military computer systems.

After more than a year in development, the Minnesota Intrusion Detection System project has been introduced to the military in hopes of curbing attacks on military information systems before those attacks compromise critical systems.

“This is of great significance to America,” said Vipin Kumar, director of the University’s Army High Performance Computing Research Center.

“Defending these military computer networks is just as important as defending the battlefields because military networks are supporting soldiers,” he said.

The system was developed by University computer researchers working with the Army High Performance Computing Research Center, an organization under the University’s direction that also supports military interests.

A team of approximately 10 University professors and students introduced several areas of computer science expertise.

While the project began under government interests, the intrusion detection system is not limited to military use.

“When you have an organization of hackers trying to attack you, damage can be very serious,” Kumar said.

The intrusion detection system can detect intrusion into personal information, files and other computer data vulnerable to exploitation.

The system could be especially useful in protecting systems such as telecommunication operations, air traffic control and online banking.

With these systems, understanding what’s happening to linked computers is critical to security. Without programs such as the intrusion detection system, that can be difficult to discern.

The intrusion detection system was put to work for the first time in August. Installed in the University network system, the intrusion detection system has surveyed between 30,000 and 40,000 computers on the University network for questionable behaviors, unusual activities, illegal program use and potential outside attacks.

The program scans network computers, searching for suspicious behavior, then ranks and summarizes its findings for systems administrators to analyze.

Putting the system to work at the University has provided developers with feedback used to improve the program’s speed and efficiency.

In the military computer systems, the detection system might determine what’s happening between a civilian computer and a governmental computer in Washington.

“The tool gives (a system administrator) a point of view that he doesn’t have otherwise, and it’s very powerful,” Kumar said.

Branden Peterson covers the St. Paul

campus and welcomes comments at [email protected]