From 'Need to Know’ to ‘Need to Share’:

April 30, 2008

From 'Need to Know’ to ‘Need to Share’: UMBC to Lead Six Campus-Team to Turn 9-11 Commission Intel-Sharing Reforms into Technology System

$7.5-million, Five-Year DoD Grant Partners UMBC With Purdue, Michigan, Illinois, Others

CONTACT: Chip Rose, UMBC News, 410-455-5793,

A six-campus team of computer scientists led by UMBC has been awarded a $7.5 million, five-year grant from the Department of Defense to turn the 9-11 Commission’s recommendations for better sharing of classified data between U.S. intelligence agencies, military and homeland security officials into a workable, secure technology network.

The team is led by a principal investigator Tim Finin, a professor of computer science and electrical engineering (CSEE) at UMBC. It also includes UMBC professors Anupam Joshi, Yelena Yesha, Hillol Kargupta and Alan Sherman, who add expertise in advanced networks, data mining and information security.

The UMBC team is partnered with researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Purdue University, University of Michigan, University of Texas at San Antonio, and University of Texas at Dallas. The grant was awarded as part of the Department of Defense’s Multi-disciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program, which takes a more long-term, interdisciplinary approach to solving scientific problems.

Many pieces of the 9-11 plot puzzle weren’t recognized until after the attacks due to inability or reluctance by intelligence agencies to share information. The 9-11 Commission Report recommended that the traditional U.S. intelligence culture of “need to know” be shifted to “need to share.”

The goal is to build software and network systems that allow the Department of Defense, intelligence agencies, homeland security and other organizations to share information dynamically and securely. The project hopes to help the U.S. better defend against future terror attacks, while protecting intelligence sources and methods as well has enforcing appropriate privacy policies.

According to Finin, the project will prove useful beyond the homeland security sphere. “There are plenty of real world problems that we can work on that are not classified, such as balancing patient privacy with making sure the right doctor in an emergency can quickly access their medical records,” Finin said. “Many of the principles of this research can apply to everyday scenarios where information is shared with the right people and protected from the wrong people, such as your family photo albums on Flickr or your credit history.”

“We want to create the science behind the idea of need to share,” said Joshi. “We’ll be weighing what should be shared with whom and asking if we can balance the utility of sharing something with the risk of its getting disclosed.”

“We want to find how to maximize our ability to share information while following pre-defined policies that protect privacy, ensure appropriate use and maximize accuracy,” said Finin. “It is a challenging task that will not be completely solved in the next few years, but we can make significant progress and advance the state of the art.”

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