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A PRIME TARGET. This image of the Crab Nebula combines data from five different telescopes. Data from scientific instruments such as telescopes is vulnerable to threats from malware and cyberattacks. Photo credit: G. Dubner (IAFE, CONICET-University of Buenos Aires) et al.; NRAO/AUI/NSF; A. Loll et al.; T. Temim et al.; F. Seward et al.; Chandra/CXC; Spitzer/JPL-Caltech; XMM-Newton/ESA; and Hubble/STScI.

Keeping the mysteries of the universe safe from hackers

IU-led ResearchSOC now provides cybersecurity for NRAO’s deep-space discoveries

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) has engaged the services of the Research Security Operations Center (ResearchSOC) to understand and detect threats to their instruments and data.

A virtual center funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and led by Indiana University (IU), ResearchSOC distributes the research cybersecurity capabilities of IU, Duke University, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and the University of California San Diego.

ResearchSOC is a key part of our plan to ensure the productivity, integrity, and reliability of our scientific data and reduce our cybersecurity risks.

David Halstead, chief information officer, NRAO

NRAO provides state-of-the-art radio telescope facilities for use by the international scientific community. NRAO telescopes are open to all astronomers regardless of institutional or national affiliation. Researchers use NRAO’s radio telescopes to observe the naturally occurring radio waves that come from stars, planets, galaxies, clouds of dust, and molecules of gas, and turn their observations into discoveries about the universe in which we live.  Scientific research is a prime target for malware and active cyberattacks, witnessed by recent attempts to hack into COVID-19 research and a 2017 cyberattack against an Australian research telescope.

“ResearchSOC is a key part of our plan to ensure the productivity, integrity, and reliability of our scientific data and reduce our cybersecurity risks,” said David Halstead, chief information officer of the NRAO. “The partnership has been highly productive, and engaging with ResearchSOC means we have access to a depth of critical cybersecurity capabilities and expertise that would otherwise be outside the reach of an organization like ours. I would also like to thank the NSF for providing the resources to tackle ongoing cybersecurity challenges.”

Researchers must be confident that their data has not been compromised to ensure data integrity and reproducibility.

Von Welch, project director, ResearchSOC/NRAO partnership; director, CACR

ResearchSOC capabilities include the 24 x 7 x 365 monitoring by OmniSOC, a shared cybersecurity operations center based at IU, and the Vulnerability Identification Service, the Shared Threat Intelligence for Network Gatekeeping and Automated Response, and services by IU’s Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research (CACR).

Von Welch is the project director for the ResearchSOC/NRAO partnership and the director of IU's CACR.

“The vulnerability and intrusion detection services of the ResearchSOC address the unique concerns of open science research, including the integrity of scientific instruments and the potential for research interruption and failure. Researchers must be confident that their data has not been compromised to ensure data integrity and reproducibility,” said Welch.

About ResearchSOC

The Research Security Operations Center (ResearchSOC) is a collaborative security response center that addresses the unique cybersecurity concerns of the research community. ResearchSOC helps make scientific computing resilient to cyberattacks and capable of supporting trustworthy, productive research. The ResearchSOC is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant 1840034. For more information on ResearchSOC, email rsoc@iu.edu.

About NRAO

Founded in 1956, the NRAO provides state-of-the-art radio telescope facilities for use by the international scientific community. NRAO telescopes are open to all astronomers regardless of institutional or national affiliation. Observing time on NRAO telescopes is available on a competitive basis to qualified scientists after evaluation of research proposals on the basis of scientific merit, the capability of the instruments to do the work, and the availability of the telescope during the requested time. NRAO also provides both formal and informal programs in education and public outreach for teachers, students, the general public, and the media.

The NRAO is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under the terms of a cooperative agreement between the NSF and Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), a science management corporation.