Lab Challenges, Protects Information Security
“The nice thing about working with young minds is they don’t know what they’re trying to do is supposed to be impossible,” says Drew Hamilton, director of Auburn’s Information Assurance Laboratory. “Then we find out that it’s not impossible, and they say, ‘we can actually do this.’”
The “this” in Hamilton’s case is high-level software espionage and protection: literally electronic spycraft. Students in his labs figure out how to crack government software, find messages encoded in images and music, and combat insider threats to corporate network security. And forget hypothetical case studies—students either work on a real issue they’re personally passionate about, or on a sponsoring company’s actual problem. Many get so good at what they do that they go on to careers within those companies.
Admittedly, Hamilton’s got some great students: “Half the class are valedictorians of their high school,” he says ⎯ but Hamilton’s trust in them is outstanding. Rather than dictate projects, he lets students drive the work. “If their heart’s in it, that’s what really makes great research.”
And the strategy’s paying off. Hamilton says his lab is more agile than its industry counterparts because of its diversity of projects and its ability to do riskier research.
“You come to a university for new and innovative ideas. You want something that actually works, that has a proof of concept,” he says. “The cost of doing research at Auburn is remarkably low for the return on investment.”
While Hamilton can’t discuss all the specifics of his work with non-sponsors, the big picture is evident. “National defense is bred into us as part of our mission space, and we take that seriously. Being able to do good by your students and good for your country – I enjoy coming to work every day.”
- Information Assurance
- Software Architecture
- Software Vulnerability Assessment
- Simulation of Computer Networks
- Computer Security
For more information on Dr. Hamilton, visit his Web site.