Long Island Business News July 21, 2006 NEWS Stony Brook takes cybersecurity lead Long Island Business News Staff For $30,000, your company can get a membership into an elite club. But don't expect a pool or a golf course. Instead, prepare to have your cybersecurity problems solved and learn the best practices for protecting your company's most vulnerable asset - information. Stony Brook University's Center for Cybersecurity, already a leading research institute in the burgeoning sector, is inviting companies to join academic and industry research partnerships. The center has already received a $10,000 planning grant from the National Science Foundation, but the big money $350,000 over five years - has strings attached. NSF Program Director Edward Clancy said the money is part of a leveraging effort between the U.S. government, universities and industry to develop long-term partnerships. "The government puts in the startup money," said Clancy. "Stony Brook will receive the continuing grant money once they get letters of intent from companies who want to become members. " Stony Brook needs $150,000 in commitments, or five members, to meets its goal. R. Sekar, a Stony Brook computer science professor and director of the program, said $10,000 memberships for smaller companies may become available, so the number of required members is not firm. The funds will be distributed through the NSF's Industry/University Cooperative Research Center Program, which aims to transfer academic knowledge into reallife products and practices. "We have been expanding the cybersecurity department ever since I joined Stony Brook" in 1999, Sekar said. "Some faculty gravitated toward cybersecurity, and we also hired a few professors who specialized in cybersecurity. Now we have a core group of seven members to participate in the program. " Those individuals, according to Sekar, form one of the strongest academic groups in the country studying cybersecurity issues. He estimates there are 10 other universities in the country studying cybersecurity at the same level as Stony Brook. "The core difference is that our group offers practical solutions to problems, not research papers," Sekar noted. One of the center's more notable accomplishments is a method that protects computer memory from attacking viruses. An e-mail signature that blocks spam attacks is currently under development. Two other programs, one at Iowa State University and another at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, will also participate as part of the NSF's I/UCRC program, and Clancy said the NSF may add Purdue University, North Carolina State and a school in California. "When we get eight to 10 schools and you have the best people on the subject working on problems, it will really start to get companies interested," he added. As with most anything, you get what you pay for. "The amount of money put in will affect the amount of influence on which projects we work on," Sekar noted. "If you look at the amount of money companies spend on internal resources to get results like we can produce, it is significant. The real obstacle is convincing companies on the value they can get out of a program like this. " If Stony Brook can secure the necessary interest from the business community, it can later renew the program for $250,000 over an additional five years. A cybersecurity research center is planned for the Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology building adjacent to the university, but Sekar estimated that won't be for another three years. Until then, the center will be located in various offices within the university's current computer science program.