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The National Security Agency is coming to a university near you.

The agency has launched an initiative to strengthen contacts between tech-heavy U.S. American colleges and universities. The project will coordinate academic collaboration to best protect Internet infrastructure. Already, the NSA has awarded funds and resources to Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Maryland, and North Carolina State University to set up so-called “lablets” on their campuses.

In a release, the press-shy NSA said the “lablets” program (read: small labs), which launched three years ago, has already given nearly three hundred universities an opportunity to accept research money and expertise to develop collaborative relationships in the name of “Science of Security,” or SoS.

According to the NSA:

For the past three years, the National Security Agency (NSA) and U.S. Government have been partnering with academia to create a research community dedicated to the Science of Security (SoS). More recently, NSA made a strong commitment to this venture by giving almost three hundred departments at universities the opportunity to receive funding to develop “Lablets” in partnership with private industry and NSA.

The lablets conduct research while championing the need for SoS, with the goal of building out the concept between government, the private sector, and schools. The ultimate goal, the NSA said, is for “developing this platform to bring scientific rigor to research in the cybersecurity domain.”

The program must be a welcome diversion for the world’s largest intelligence agency, which has found itself under a relentless global spotlight, thanks to the secrets spilled by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Academic specialists from the above-mentioned universities visited the NSA’s headquarters at Ft. Meade, Md., in February. They met with researchers and specialists from the NSA’s Research Directorate.

The NSA has identified five core issues that the lablet program will tackle: scalability and composability, policy-governed secure collaboration, security metrics, resilient architectures and understanding, and accounting for human behavior. The real mission here, according to the NSA, is collaboration on topics of mutual interest in the name of Internet security.

According to the NSA release:

This joint venture will focus on the discovery of formal underpinnings for the design of trusted systems, which include contributions from the disciplines of computer science, mathematics, behavioral science, economics, and physics.

We spoke to the NSA this morning and emailed a list of questions. Stay tuned.


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