Sandia opens new facility dedicated to cybersecurity research

Sandia National Laboratories cut the ribbon June 12 on a new laboratory that will provide a setting for assisting cybersecurity professionals locally and across the nation as they work on critical cyber research issues, Sandia officials said in an announcement.

The new Cybersecurity Technologies Research Laboratory (CTRL) is located on the grounds of the Livermore Valley Open Campus.

“With the CTRL, we can run experiments and talk more freely about a wide range of cyber research activities, and we can do so with a variety of U.S. and international collaborators but without some of the unrelated restrictions that are often associated with a national laboratory,” said Jim Costa, senior manager of computational sciences and analysis at Sandia’s California site.

“At the same time, we can do these things in a uniquely controlled environment where we know what activities are taking place and we can monitor who and what else is in the building,” he said. “We look at CTRL like our own neighborhood hangout for Sandia and visiting cyber professionals who need an open but secure place to meet and collaborate.”

Broadly, CTRL will promote stronger relationships between industry, academia and national laboratories in the research and development of cybersecurity solutions through technology, practices and policy. CTRL will:

  • Develop the science and computing foundation necessary for robust cybersecurity research and development.
  • Develop critical relationships to help understand the full range of technical threat concerns facing industry, government (nonclassified) and academia.
  • Develop, test and help implement cybersecurity approaches in real-world situations.
  • Promote the various technical domains that support the advancement of cybersecurity, essential to the security and stability of the U.S. and the world.
  • Develop political and social awareness of real, imminent threats and the consequences posed by cyber exploits and attacks. Provide a window to the external world on open cybersecurity and related work throughout Sandia, along with acting as a Bay Area resource for open work performed at Sandia’s New Mexico location.

Sandia has received accolades for its successful Center for Cyber Defenders (CCD) program, which has trained hundreds of college students in cyber defense and has seen many go into private industry and government to tackle cybersecurity issues, according to Sandia officials. This summer’s Sandia/California CCD interns are housed in the CTRL facility.

As a national security laboratory, Sandia needs to remain active in the cybersecurity arena, said Costa, and Sandia’s California site is well-positioned to offer a facility like CTRL to Silicon Valley interests, federal and local government and companies from around the country that need it the most. Virtually every company and organization in existence has issues with privacy, supply chains, exfiltration of intellectual property, malware and communications, so places where scientists, engineers and cyber analysts can gather openly yet securely have become critical.

“The Bay Area is a hotbed for social media and computer companies of every type, and every product or service being developed today must be reliable and resilient,” Costa said. “Any of it can be attacked by our adversaries, so the more we can facilitate technical discussions with our cybersecurity brethren, the better.” Access to CTRL, he said, is very flexible, so some non-Sandia personnel could conceivably come for an afternoon or day, stay a week or more or even have an office set up for long-term use.

In addition to its CCD students, CTRL houses a number of Sandia cyber programs funded by multiple sources and is beginning to provide office space for academic and industrial partners. Costa said he envisions even more CTRL users in the coming months and years, potentially from other collaborators Sandia hasn’t even begun to work with.

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