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Partnership to Protect Against Cyber Attacks

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A new partnership between the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and MITRE could significantly impact how effectively cybersecurity officers and network administrators conduct their day-to-day operations in the future.

MITRE is a non-profit organization that operates multiple federally funded research and development centers for government sponsors. It applies systems thinking across government, industry and academia to solve nationwide challenges. In addition, the MITRE Independent Research and Development (IR&D) Program conducts research and development in various fields, including cybersecurity.

The partnership with UL Lafayette supports MITRE’s IR&D Adaptive Cyber Resiliency project and is focused on developing solutions that can potentially improve the ability of organizations and governments to protect themselves against cyberattacks.

“MITRE has partnered with researchers at UL Lafayette to address a critical problem within cyber resiliency optimization: anticipating future organizational needs for network access,” said MITRE’s Dr. Steven Noel, a principal researcher on the project.

Analyzing historical records of observed network traffic has limited value since it only considers previous network activity and overlooks potential new mission needs.

UL Lafayette’s team of faculty and student researchers is developing novel approaches, based on artificial intelligence and graph theory, to create models of observed user behaviors in computer network domains. They are using these models to predict future communication links between users and services provided by computers.

“In addition to predicting expected links in real time, our models can red-flag anomalous links that may pose high security risks,” said Dr. Mehmet Engin Tozal, associate professor in UL Lafayette’s School of Computing and Informatics and the principal investigator from the University on this project. “The innovative approaches we develop are expected to automate and/or semi-automate network access policy enforcement practices.”

UL Lafayette’s models will be a component of MITRE’s Adaptive Cyber Resiliency system. In this research project, the MITRE team is combining digital twin technology and artificial intelligence for optimizing security protections within networks. This includes using machine learning to analyze a network environment, identify potential vulnerabilities, and automatically adjust security protections to better protect against these vulnerabilities.

“This approach enhances protection against cyber threats and improves an organization's overall cyber resiliency, finding an optimal balance between network access for the organizational mission and cyber-attack risks,” said Dr. Vipin Swarup, MITRE Distinguished Cyber Engineer, who leads the overall project for MITRE.

Dr. Vijay Raghavan, professor and director of the Center for Visual Decision Informatics from the School of Computing and Informatics, and Dr. Raju Gottumukkala, assistant professor in Mechanical Engineering and director of research for the Informatics Research Institute , are part of the UL Lafayette team as well.

“I am especially excited about this partnership because MITRE gives us the opportunity and guidance to transfer theory to the real world and test how our ideas work in the wild,” said Tozal.

The ultimate goal of the MITRE project is to develop a platform for cyber resiliency improvement that can serve as a reference implementation for cyber defenders across the country.