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The Latest Research in Software Engineering and Cybersecurity

Malware, which is short for "malicious software," consists of programming aimed at disrupting or denying operation, gathering private information without consent, gaining unauthorized access to system resources, and other inappropriate behavior. Malware infestation is of increasing concern to government and commercial organizations. For example, according to the Global Threat Report from Cisco Security Intelligence Operations, there were 287,298 "unique malware encounters" in June 2011, double the number of incidents that occurred in March. To help mitigate the threat of malware, researchers at the SEI are investigating the origin of executable software binaries that often take the form of malware. This posting augments a previous postingdescribing our research on using classification (a form of machine learning) to detect "provenance similarities" in binaries, which means that they have been compiled from similar source code (e.g., differing by only minor revisions) and with similar compilers (e.g., different versions of Microsoft Visual C++ or different levels of optimization).

A reliable, secure energy supply is vital to our economy, our security, and our well being. A key component of achieving a reliable and secure energy supply is the "smart grid" initiative. This initiative is a modernization effort that employs distributed sensing and control technologies, advanced communication systems, and digital automation to enable the electric power grid to respond intelligently to fluctuations in energy supply and demand, the actions of consumers, and market forces with an overall objective to improve grid efficiency and reliability. A smart grid will also allow homeowners to track energy consumption and adjust their habits accordingly. This posting describes several initiatives that the SEI has taken to support power utility companies in their modernization efforts to create a smart grid.

Happy Labor Day from all of us here at the SEI. I'd like to take advantage of this special occasion to keep you apprised of some recent technical reports and notes from the SEI. It's part of an ongoing effort to keep you informed about our latest work. These reports highlight the latest work of SEI technologists in architecting service-oriented systems, operational resilience, standards-based automated remediation, and acquisition. This post includes a listing of each report, author/s, and links where the published reports can be accessed on the SEI website.

Background: Over the past decade, the U.S. Air Force has asked the SEI's Acquisition Support Program (ASP) to conduct a number of Independent Technical Assessments (ITAs) on acquisition programs related to the development of IT systems; communications, command and control; avionics; and electronic warfare systems. This blog posting is the latest installment in a series that explores common themes across acquisition programs that we identified as a result of our ITA work. Previous themes explored in this series include Misaligned Incentives, The Need to Sell the Program, and The Evolution of "Science Projects."This post explores the fourth theme: common infrastructure and joint programs, which describes a key issue that arises when multiple organizations attempt to cooperate in the development of a single system, infrastructure, or capability that will be used and shared by all parties.

Testing plays a critical role in the development of software-reliant systems. Even with the most diligent efforts of requirements engineers, designers, and programmers, faults inevitably occur. These faults are most commonly discovered and removed by testing the system and comparing what it does to what it is supposed to do. This blog posting summarizes a method that improves testing outcomes (including efficacy and cost) in a software-reliant system by using an architectural design approach, which describes a coherent set of architectural decisions taken by architects to help meet the behavioral and quality attribute requirements of systems being developed.

Software sustainment is growing in importance as the inventory of DoD systems continues to age and greater emphasis is placed on efficiency and productivity in defense spending. In part 1 of this series, I summarized key software sustainment challenges facing the DoD. In this blog posting, I describe some of the R&D activities conducted by the SEI to address these challenges.

The 2011 CyberSecurity Watch survey revealed that 27 percent of cybersecurity attacks against organizations were caused by disgruntled, greedy, or subversive insiders, employees, or contractors with access to that organization's network systems or data. Of the 607 survey respondents, 43 percent view insider threat attacks as more costly and cited not only a financial loss but also damage to reputation, critical system disruption, and loss of confidential or proprietary information. For the Department of Defense (DoD) and industry, combating insider threat attacks is hard due to the authorized physical and logical access of insiders to organization systems and intimate knowledge of organizations themselves.

Department of Defense (DoD) programs have traditionally focused on the software acquisition phase (initial procurement, development, production, and deployment) and largely discounted the software sustainment phase (operations and support) until late in the lifecycle. The costs of software sustainment are becoming too high to discount since they account for 60 to 90 percent of the total software lifecycle effort.