The Defense Department is giving Carnegie Mellon University $35.5 million to develop tools and tactics for fighting cyberterrorism.
The inventions to be researched and engineered at the top computer science school would serve equally well in battling hackers and Internet crooks.
"These problems have always existed. Terrorism only increased the visibility of these problems," said Pradeep Khosla, who heads the university's electrical and computer engineering department and directs the new Center for Computer and Communications Security.
The 5-year grant, combined with other federal, state and private funding, gives the center an $8 million budget this year.
Better technology is needed so Internet users can verify the identity of others and keep hackers from infiltrating computer networks, said Khosla.
The center is already researching ways to engineer artificial intelligence into hardware so that components such as disk drives could take countermeasures in a hacker attack. Such components would shut down and even automatically report an incident to network administrators
Researchers are also studying how to use signatures, fingerprints, iris patterns, face recognition technology and voice scans to confirm the identity of computer users.
Khosla believes some combination of those technologies will likely be used in the future.
"You may wear a mask so you look like me, but it's not likely that you're going to look like me, sign (your name) like me and sound like me," he said.
Some of the technologies could even be used outside cyberspace.
For example, computer-linked cameras could confirm the identity of an airline pilot and place the plane on autopilot if someone else took the controls or if the pilot unexpectedly left the camera's view, Khosla said.
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