IT News & Events

News about IT at Indiana University and the world

Menu
BIG DATA. The Large Hadron Collider, based in Cern, Switzerland, is the largest physics experiment in the world. In 2012, data from the LHC showed the existence of a long-theorized particle called the Higgs boson, leading to a Nobel prize for the two scientists who had theorized the existence of this particle.

IU cybersecurity experts to help protect Large Hadron Collider data

Indiana University part of new $25 million NSF institute to manage and protect data collected by world’s largest physics experiment

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—Researchers from Indiana University’s Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research will oversee the security of data produced by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) as part of a new $25 million institute announced by the National Science Foundation (NSF) this week.

The Institute for Research and Innovation in Software for High-Energy Physics (IRIS-HEP) is a large-scale, collaborative initiative, led by Princeton University, to manage and protect the unprecedented torrent of data produced by the LHC in Cern, Switzerland, and to ensure that it can be used by scientists here in the United States and around the world. IU’s role in the project is to oversee security of Open Science Grid, a high-throughput computing platform that allows scientists at any institution, even those without high-end compute resources, to work with massive data sets such as that coming from the LHC.

The Large Hadron Collider is the largest physics experiment in the world. In 2012, data from the LHC showed the existence of a long-theorized particle called the Higgs boson, leading to a Nobel prize for the two scientists who had theorized the existence of this particle.

The availability and integrity of LHC data is critical to U.S. science. Our role in IRIS-HEP will leverage CACR’s experience in working with the science community to secure research infrastructure.

Susan Sons, grant co-PI, chief security analyst, CACR
Susan Sons
Susan Sons

However, to fully understand such particles and their place in the universe, the collider will need a boost. The power and capability of the LHC is scheduled to be upgraded by nearly 10 times in 2026. After this upgrade, the LHC will produce more than one billion particle collisions every second, with the hope that just a few of these will yield new scientific discoveries. This increase in power will result in 10 times as much need for data storage and processing, and creates a greater security challenge for scientists.

Meeting this security challenge is the role of an IU research team led by Susan Sons, who serves as principal investigator for IU’s portion of the grant award, which totals $870,000. Sons is the chief security analyst at IU’s Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research. CACR is a centerpiece of IU’s cybersecurity community and is affiliated with the IU Pervasive Technology Institute. Sons has led cybersecurity for the Open Science Grid, which has been supporting LHC research in the United States since 2016. As a co-PI in the IRIS-HEP grant award, Sons will continue to lead coordination of cybersecurity, data integrity, and availability for the LHC community on high-throughput compute infrastructure in the United States.

“The availability and integrity of LHC data is critical to U.S. science,” said Sons. “Our role in IRIS-HEP will leverage CACR’s experience in working with the science community to secure research infrastructure. While physics does not typically have the confidentiality emphasis of other data, ensuring the availability and integrity of data is critical to the productivity and trustworthiness of science.”

CACR’s IRIS-HEP award is just the latest success in decades of leadership and collaboration by Indiana University within the LHC and international physics research communities. In the early 1990s, IU professor Harold Ogren led the design and construction of one part of a detector used in the LHC to verify the existence of the Higgs boson. This led to the IU Pervasive Technology Institute playing a critical role in the Open Science Grid and analysis of data from the LHC since the late 1990s. CACR has been a leader in securing the LHC data and the Open Science Grid for more than half of a decade. As a result of this work, CACR and PTI have supported projects resulting in two Nobel Prizes in physics. The IRIS-HEP project further extends CACR’s leadership role in protecting and securing U.S. scientific research data in order to preserve data integrity and reliability.

IRIS-HEP is co-funded by NSF's Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure in the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering and the NSF Division of Physics in the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences. The new center is the latest NSF contribution to the 40-nation LHC effort.

About CACR
CACR is a member of the Indiana University Pervasive Technology Institute and part of Indiana University’s growing cybersecurity community, which includes the Maurer School of Law; the Kelley School of Business; the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering; OmniSOC; REN-ISAC; the University Information Policy Office; and the University Information Security Office.

About IU Pervasive Technology Institute
IU’s Pervasive Technology Institute is a collaborative organization with seven affiliated research and development centers, representing collaboration among the IU Office of the Vice President for IT and CIO (which leads the effort), University Information Technology Services, the Maurer School of Law, the Kelley School of Business, the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, and the College of Arts and Sciences at IU. Its mission is to transform new innovations in cyberinfrastructure and computer science into robust tools and support the use of such tools in academic and private sector research and development. IU PTI does this while aiding the Indiana economy and helping to build Indiana’s 21st century workforce.