Cybersecurity experts to oversee data security produced by Large Hadron Collider

Researchers from Indiana University’s Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research (CACR) will oversee the security of data produced by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

By Ceci Jones, Indiana University September 15, 2018

Researchers from Indiana University’s Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research (CACR) 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).

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 enormous 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. To fully understand such particles and their place in the universe, however, 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.

Indiana University 

– Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, See more Control Engineering cybersecurity stories.