Friday, June 30, 2006
Portable network allows students to test cyber security
|The Portable Educational Network can be used in any course related to network security or networking in general. It also is used to conduct research on cyber security. |
By Rebecca Wyatt, OU Web Writer
Assistant Professor of Engineering Huirong Fu is helping establish Oakland University as a leader in Michigan in the area of information assurance. Fu obtained sponsorship from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., for a Portable Educational Network (PEN) and a grant from the National Science Foundation toward the enhancement of OU’s cyber security and networking courses.
George Washington University developed the portable network with the U.S. Defense Department and Cisco Systems and sponsored three universities, including OU, to perform research and explore other opportunities for the network.
Fu worked with the Designated Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education at George Washington University to develop the portable network for OU, which includes servers, firewalls, routers and hubs to provide a real-life scenario for students using the network. All the equipment is packaged in a portable box made of military grade casing that can be moved from classrooms to labs to provide demonstrations or experimentation with networks. Computers are hooked up as “attackers” and “victims” on the network and students can control both sides.
“The students will learn how to protect our networks,” Fu said. “They will learn how to launch some kinds of attacks and how to prevent against attacks. The network also enables students to study the forensic evidence of the attack and identify the fingerprints left by attackers.”
While active information gathering, password gathering and service attacks have become common and dangerous today, the Portable Educational Network allows students to launch and prevent against such attacks. The PEN is a self-contained network, meaning attacks launched are only on the private network and will not impact anyone else.
The United States networks are a vital part of the nation’s critical infrastructure. It is important to protect and defend the network that controls things like telecommunications, energy and transportation, and OU students are preparing to do just that.
The Portable Educational Network first was used at OU in an information security class during the fall 2005 semester. Fu said it will be used in more and more classes and can be used in any course related to network security or networking in general. It also is used to conduct research on cyber security.
“Both my students and myself are using the data from defenders and attackers to design intrusion detection systems,” Fu said.
Even though it only has been around for a short period of time, Fu already is looking to upgrade the PEN. In the future, she would like to see the portable network become a full-size lab where students can learn more about cyber security and information technology forensic analysis.
Fu also is the recipient of a National Science Foundation grant to establish more rigorous information security courses. With aid from the grant, OU hopes to become a Center for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education as designated by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.
“We are trying to develop some courses, do some research and develop relationships with other universities who also are working on information assurance,” Fu said.
For more information on OU’s engineering programs, visit the School of Engineering and Computer Science Web site.