SRI International taking on DARPA Brandeis cyber security project to safeguard private data

SAN DIEGO, 24 Aug. 2015. Cyber security experts at SRI International in Menlo Park, Calif., are developing ways to keep proprietary and private data private, as well as to understand how to build information systems that ensure private information can be used only for its intended purpose and for no other.

SRI International taking on DARPA Brandeis cyber security project to safeguard private data
SRI International taking on DARPA Brandeis cyber security project to safeguard private data
SAN DIEGO, 24 Aug. 2015.Cyber security experts at SRI International in Menlo Park, Calif., are developing ways to keep proprietary and private data private, as well as to understand how to build information systems that ensure private information can be used only for its intended purpose and for no other.

Officials of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) in San Diego, have awarded an $8.5 million contract to SRI International for the Brandeis program, which aims to develop ways of protecting the proprietary and private information of individuals and enterprises. SPAWAR awarded the contract on behalf of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va.

On this contract SRI International computer scientists are taking on innovative research in data privacy and privacy science to provide tools to capture, test, and evaluate technologies.

Privacy is critical to a free society, DARPA researchers say. As Louis Brandeis said in 1890, the right to privacy is a consequence of understanding that harm comes in more ways than just the physical. He was reacting to the ability of the new “instantaneous camera” to record personal information in new ways.

Since then, the ability of technology to collect and share information has grown beyond all expectation. DARPA researchers are asking SRI International for ways to continue the benefits of information sharing, while safeguarding the private information of individuals and businesses.

Related: DARPA eyes cyber security program to safeguard proprietary and private computer information

The White House has made cyber security a priority and has launched initiatives to enable the safe and effective sharing of information to increase the nation’s ability to protect itself and to thwart any adversary’s ability to shut down our networks, steal trade secrets, or invade the privacy of Americans, researchers say.

The Brandeis program seeks to develop the technical means to protect the proprietary and private information of individuals and enterprises.

Government experts today typically must choose between maintaining privacy and tapping into huge reservoirs of important data. On the Brandeis program, SRI International experts will search for a third option: finding a safe and predictable way to share data that preserves privacy.

Potential benefits are great, DARPA researchers point out. Assured data privacy could lead the way to personal medicine that capitalizes on cross-linked genotype and phenotype data; smart cities that optimize buildings, energy use, and traffic controls minute by minute; compiling detailed global data where every car gathers data on the environment, weather, and emergency situations; and fine-grain Internet awareness where every company and device shares network and cyber-attack data.

The Brandeis program has four technical areas: privacy-preserving computation; human data interaction; experimental systems; and metrics and analysis. Additional Brandeis contracts are likely to be awarded.

Related: Top secrets: securing sensitive data

Ultimately DARPA could award several contracts in each of these four technical areas, worth a cumulative total of as much as $60 million. The program will last for 4.5 years and will have three 18-month phases.

Privacy-preserving computation seeks to enable privacy-preserving computation techniques that future system designers can use as building blocks, with mechanisms to leverage a small amount of private computation for a large computational effect.

Human data interaction involves enabling humans to control their data by expressing high-level intentions, like “I don’t want my data to be used against me," with new interfaces that capture privacy intentions. This technical area also may involve machine learning and automated agents across distributed devices.

Experimental systems involves new ways to build privacy-aware systems to protect data at source, and ways to test these ideas in practice. Metrics and analysis, meanwhile, involves ways to quantify the privacy benefits and costs of a system, developing analysis tools to assess privacy technologies as they are used.

On this contract SRI International is doing the work in Menlo Park, Calif., and should be finished by February 2020. For more information contact SRI International online at www.sri.com, or DARPA at www.darpa.mil.

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