CIRI forges new partnership with U.S. Coast Guard

Tasked with six major operational missions, the U.S. Coast Guard plays an essential role in American homeland security. The Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI) at the University of Illinois is honored to announce a newly formed working relationship with the Coast Guard to explore innovative methods and technologies related to one of those missions—increasing port security.

David M. Nicol, professor and CIRI director, recently visited a Coast Guard research facility to kick start conversation around this new relationship. According to Nicol, CIRI exists to provide research-based solutions to homeland security challenges related to security and infrastructure, which makes a partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard mutually beneficial.

“American ports are living, breathing organisms,” says Nicol. “They are essential to the American economic engine, so you can imagine that the Coast Guard is interested in ensuring that best practices in infrastructure resiliency have been appropriately vetted and adapted to suit the unique needs of such a critical system.”

There are a variety of CIRI projects that could provide useful insight for the Coast Guard, but one project in particular will explore how to manage port security risk before, during, and after a port disruption. The goal of the project is to identify and measure the security and technology impacts of a port disruption, as the ripple effects from this type of incident are now believed to be more far-reaching than previously understood.

While visiting with senior leaders and staff in December, Nicol was presented with a U.S. Coast Guard challenge coin. In the military, a challenge coin is a small medallion bearing an organization’s insignia and signifies both pride and fellowship. The coins are usually carried by the organization’s members and are often given to military personnel and civilians alike in recognition of service above and beyond the call of duty.

“I was incredibly honored to be presented with the coin,” says Nicol. “The U.S. Coast Guard is known for forging strong, productive relationships and I am pleased that CIRI will be joining their network of partners. One of the things I appreciate most about working with the Coast Guard is that they are grounded in tradition but they are open to and actively pursue new ways of thinking. It’s a very progressive approach to solving problems.”

Several CIRI-sponsored infrastructure security projects are already underway or kicking off this spring. Representatives from the Coast Guard will be visiting CIRI in May to further define the relationship and articulate next steps related to the port security research project.

CIRI announces 2017 projects

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI) at the University of Illinois is pleased to announce a slate of newly funded projects that aim to create more secure and resilient critical infrastructure. The 13 projects were selected from a pool of 86 applications submitted in response to CIRI’s call for proposals.

CIRI is one of 10 Centers of Excellence established by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s Office of University Programs. Led by Director and Principal Investigator David Nicol, the goal of the institute is to develop a nuanced understanding of the interdependencies of our nation’s organizational, policy, business, and technical resources. Using an interdisciplinary approach, the CIRI research program aims to suggest pathways toward developing healthier, more robust human and technical systems that can better withstand and more efficiently recover from cyber-attacks and failures.

“One of the interesting things about our critical infrastructure is that the vast majority of it is owned and operated by the private sector,” says Nicol, who is the Franklin W. Woeltge Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Illinois. “If we want to improve the resilience of these structures, we have to better understand how they interact with each other – in both intended and unintended ways – and we have to foster better relationships between the public and private sectors that own, operate, and govern these systems.”

The latest round of funding supports a blend of new projects and projects that are now entering an advanced phase. The projects are diverse, but they each align under one of four frameworks that drive CIRI’s scientific exploration: (1) Insurance and the Business Case for Resilience, (2) Infrastructure Dependencies and Interdependencies, (3) Industrial Supply Chains, and (4) Communication.  Researchers will explore topics ranging from securing port infrastructure to creating economic resilience models that help decision makers use cost-effective tactics during pre-disaster planning and post-disaster recovery.

“These projects all have the potential to dramatically shape what we know and understand about infrastructure resilience,” says Matt Coats, DHS Program Manager. “Each of these scientists brings their own experience and perspective to bear on this body of research, which is one of the strengths of organizations like CIRI. David and his team have created a framework to help guide the strategic exploration of a domain that is both vast and complex and they’re using an approach that rapidly evolves our understanding and management of such an essential area.”

Projects funded for implementation in early 2017 include the following:

  • Resilience Governance for Infrastructure Dependencies and Interdependencies – Steve Flynn, Northeastern University
  • LEFT: An LTE-Oriented Emulation-Instrumented Fuzzing Testbed – Guanhua Yan, Binghamton University, SUNY
  • Mapping Infrastructure Interdependencies for Improved Emergency Management and Resilience Investment Decisions – Iris Tien, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Measuring Business and Economic Resilience in Disasters – Adam Rose, University of Southern California
  • Community Resilience and Disaster Costs – Sally Ann McConkey, University of Illinois
  • Scenariobased Flood Risk Mapping – Himanshu Grover, University of Washington
  • Cybersecurity Assurance for Critical Infrastructure – John Villasenor, UCLA (Stanford University, lead)
  • Identifying and Reducing Barriers to Infrastructure Insurance – Howard Kunreuther, University of Pennsylvania
  • Strengthening Local and Regional Regulatory Capacities for Cyber-Resilience – Rebecca Slayton, Cornell University (Stanford University, lead)
  • Quantifying Interdependencies of the Logical/Physical Internet Topologies – Kimberly Claffy, University of California, San Diego
  • Towards Community Resilience through Comprehensive Risk Assessment for Business Continuity – Jay P. Kesan, University of Illinois
  • Assessment and Measurement of Port Disruptions – Gabriel Weaver, University of Illinois
  • Dynamic Resiliency Modeling and Planning for Interdependent Critical Infrastructures– Quanyan Zhu, New York University

These projects are all slated for kickoff in early 2017. For more information about these and other CIRI funded projects, visit

Cyber naiveté poses major threat to critical infrastructure resilience

FROM MARKETWIRED – SUNNYVALE, CA – (Jan 11, 2017) – According to research by RedSeal, CEOs are not proportionately concerned about the fact that information security loss is accelerating faster than the ability to contain the threat.

RedSeal polled 200 CEOs about their confidence in their companies’ cybersecurity posture and discovered they are dangerously unrealistic about how vulnerable they are. In fact, more than 80 percent display “cyber naiveté,” allowing their global organizations to be exposed to massive cyberattacks. RedSeal advocates awareness of these threats and implementation of resilience-based counter measures… Read more.

Internet of things cybersecurity flaws demand holistic cure

FROM BLOOMBERG BNA – Only a holistic, bipartisan cure will fix cybersecurity vulnerabilities pervading the internet of things (IoT) that allowed a massive denial of website access, House lawmakers said at a Nov. 16 hearing.

Companies that manufacture IoT devices should be aware that Congress is looking to regulators, including the Federal Trade Commission, to focus on the security of their products…. Read more.

CIRI seeks a Communications Coordinator

The Information Trust Institute in the College of Engineering is seeking an academic hourly to provide communications support for 20-30 hours per week to help raise awareness of the Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute and its accomplishments by articulating an image that inspires support and positions CIRI squarely as the preeminent institute for research, education, and thought leadership related to the resilience and security of the nation’s critical infrastructure. This is an academic hourly position.

Major Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Use independent judgment and discretion, work with ITI and CIRI leadership to formulate a marketing communications strategy for CIRI.
  • Develop content for press releases, web sites, digital signage, social media and other platforms.
  • Work closely with the communications teams of the Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology office and other Centers of Excellence to promote the COE program to Congress, DHS constituents, and the general public.
  • Interact with faculty and students to promote research activities and other noteworthy accomplishments through multimedia, including video, photography, infographics, etc.
  • Coordinate event planning and other communications-related activities by creating print invitations, sending out invitations, working registration desks, creating presentations, locating needed technologies for presentations, and taking photographs of the event.
  • Drive the execution of promotional programs, image, and materials and help drive, develop, and oversee production and distribution of publications, press releases, and website content.
  • Assist ITI and CIRI leadership in developing materials about our research for industrial, academic, and government partners by designing the layout of communications, choosing the medium to be used, and determining how the media should be distributed (eg., website or print).
  • Other related duties as assigned.

A bachelor’s degree in journalism, mass communication, advertising, or similar degree is required. Please send resume, 3 references, and cover letter to

Hackers Infect Army of Cameras, DVRs for Massive Internet Attacks

FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL — Attackers used an army of hijacked security cameras and video recorders to launch several massive internet attacks last week, prompting fresh concern about the vulnerability of millions of “smart” devicesin homes and businesses connected to the internet.

The assaults raised eyebrows among security experts both for their size and for the machines that made them happen….Read more.