San Diego, CALIF. — Sam Costello reports that Johns Hopkins University announced that, thanks to a $10 million gift from an anonymous donor, it would open a center to study computer and information security issues.
Called the Information Security Institute (ISI), the center may open as early as the third quarter of 2001. Located at the university’s northern Baltimore campus, the institute will examine the technological, legal, ethical and public policy issues raised by the drive to create more secure computers and computer systems. Some of the topics listed as areas of particular interest may include the protection of intellectual property online, securing e-business transactions, privacy issues and preventing computer crime. The institute also will feature labs where products will be tested for security vulnerabilities.
Dr. Gerald Masson, chair of the computer science department at the university and the institute’s interim director, called the institute’s “holistic approach” to information security an “exciting and challenging opportunity.”
Current Johns Hopkins faculty and researchers will staff the ISI, with roughly 10 members added per year for the next 3 years, Masson said. The staff will be culled from a number of areas, such as computer science, engineering, physics, international studies and the university’s medical school.
Masson expects that math, computer science and engineering majors will be attracted to the courses offered, but also that students majoring in economics, psychology or sociology also might choose to minor in information security. Though the ISI will not initially offer a major, it will offer a minor. Eventually, Masson said, a master’s degree program, mixing policy, technology and law is a possibility. Courses will be available to undergraduate, graduate and continuing education students.
Beyond the $10 million, Masson expects that the center will receive funding from research contracts awarded by the federal government and by partnering with high tech companies. Contracts with such companies would, most likely, focus on “problem areas of mutual interest,” he said.
Masson dismissed notions that such an arrangement could lead to troubles regarding academic freedom. “Even though [the companies’ goals] may have a significant impact … ultimately this is an academic operation and we intend to publish.”
Johns Hopkins is an ideal institution at which to undertake such an enterprise because the university already boasts a large number of people who are qualified, experienced and knowledgeable in the area, according to Masson. Creating the institute, he said, is simply a matter of “assembling and organizing what we already have in-house.”
The ISI will finalize its business plan in early 2001, according to a press release, and will then search for a permanent director. The institute could open its doors to students as early as next fall.