U.S. universities confront a security storm in Congress

By | August 9, 2019
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New Jersey Representative Mikie Sherrill introduces bipartisan bill to safeguard federal research from foreign espionage. (Image source.)

Sol Bermann, U-M’s chief information security officer, is quoted in a recent article in “Science” magazine about legislation moving through Congress that aims to prevent foreign entities from taking unfair advantage of the traditionally open U.S. research system.

Both House and Senate bills focus heavily on enhancing cybersecurity, seen as an essential tool in protecting intellectual property and foiling attempted espionage. Universities, however, are concerned that additional language in the Senate bill requires some compliance measures that are not suitable for many campus-based research activities.

Bermann believes such steps are not necessary to safeguard most fundamental research intended for publication. “Information technology is not a monolith at a major research university,” he says, noting that faculty members are encouraged to find solutions that fit their own IT security needs. “But we have set up compliance systems for specific projects that require additional security, and we push our researchers to use them.”