Skip Site Navigation
HomeWhat We DoResearchScience of Security

Science of Security

The National Security Agency (NSA) sponsors the Science of Security (SoS) Initiative for the promotion of a foundational cybersecurity science that is needed to mature the cybersecurity discipline and to underpin advances in cyberdefense. 

The SoS initiative works in several ways:

  1. Engage the academic community for foundational research
  2. Promote rigorous scientific principles
  3. Grow the SoS community

The Science of Security initiative together with academia, industry, and other government partners is making a strong effort to create a research community dedicated to building security science. We are seeking to discover formal underpinnings for the design of trusted systems which include contributions from the disciplines of computer science, mathematics, behavioral science, economics and physics. Our work addresses both the establishment of pieces of security science as well as how security science is created.

What is security science? 

The creation of a security science is seen as an evolving long-term research endeavor. It is not assumed that a holistic body of knowledge that scientifically addresses all aspects of security: economics, behavioral science, computer science, physics, etc. will be successful. There is not one assured path that will create security science. It will require building both the theory of how to create science and specific artifacts of security science work. The infancy of this work will be directed at "experiments" seeking to explore methods to create possible pieces that enable this science, as well as creating a large collaborating community leveraging the cutting edge research to push new bounds in security.

Some of the NSA’s efforts in the area of security science are:

  • Science of Science Virtual Organization - Provides a focal point for security science related work, and a collaborative environment the community can use to further advance security science.
  • Research Lablets - Stimulates basic research to create scientific underpinnings for security; advocates for scientific rigor in security research; creates and broadens a Science of Security community and culture in the IC; identifies "hard problems" in security that require science as a community focus and measurement of progress.
  • Best Scientific Cybersecurity Paper Competition – Offers a yearly award that highlights papers which display scientific rigor in the multidisciplined area of security research.
  • International Intel Science Fair Award – Sponsors an award in cybersecurity recognizing the need for scientific measures in cybersecurity, which takes place annually.

"Hard problems" in security require science as a community to focus and measure their progress. Following are hard problems requiring such focus and measurement:

  1. Scalability and Composability - Challenge: Develop methods to enable the construction of secure systems with known security properties from components with known security properties, without a requirement to fully re-analyze the constituent components.
  2. Policy-Governed Secure Collaboration - Challenge: Develop methods to express and enforce normative requirements and policies for handling data with differing usage needs and among users in different authority domains.
  3. Security-Metrics-Driven Evaluation, Design, Development, and Deployment - Challenge: Develop security metrics and models capable of predicting whether or confirming that a given cyber system preserves a given set of security properties (deterministically or probabilistically), in a given context.
  4. Resilient Architectures - Challenge: Develop means to design and analyze system architectures that deliver required service in the face of compromised components.
  5. Understanding and Accounting for Human Behavior - Challenge: Develop models of human behavior (of both users and adversaries) that enable the design, modeling, and analysis of systems with specified security properties.

More information about these initiatives can be found on the Science of Security Website.