Public Release: 

Florida Tech grant funds hacker attack models

Using the good guys to catch the bad guys

Florida Institute of Technology

MELBOURNE, FLA.--Blaster, Slammer and Code Red. These Internet worms in the past year have cost billions of dollars in damage after causing software engineers worldwide to scramble to stop them. Such worms, computer viruses and hacker-introduced program bugs are the targets of Florida Tech researchers who recently received a $70,000 Air Force Research Laboratory grant to model all possible hacker exploits.

"Modeling is something new," said Dr. James Whittaker, Florida Tech professor of software engineering and grant recipient. "The focus so far has been to stop these attacks rather than understand the adversaries. Since we can't defend what we don't know about, we need to learn more about the methods of the bad guys."

Whittaker is marshalling the "good guys" to understand the "bad guys." He and his team of software and computer engineers, graduate and undergraduate students, hope the models they create will lead to new testing methods and defensive techniques against hackers.

"We hope to break the cycle of the cat and mouse games that we play with hackers," said Whittaker.

Whittaker was one of 10 international computer scientists invited to join Microsoft Corporation's Trustworthy Computing Academic Advisory Board. The board formed in February 2003.

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