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Sandia Draws From Nuclear Science in Inaugurating New Cyber Lab

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A researcher inspects a supercomputer component.

Sandia National Laboratory is using supercomputers to model cyberweapons in order to determine the best response to cyberattacks.

Credit: Santia National Laboratory

Sandia National Laboratories has formally launched the Cybersecurity Engineering Research Laboratory, showing off some of its capabilities in deflecting cyberattacks against citizens, businesses, and governments.

The cybersecurity center draws from nuclear research and development to test hardware vulnerabilities and model cyberweapons on supercomputers, according to officials at the New Mexico lab. Onsite nuclear weapons specialists have been practicing these offensive and defensive warfighting techniques for decades.

"Sandia's cyber [research and development] capabilities are rooted in our [nuclear weapons] mission, and specifically weapons use-control engineering and adversarial threat assessment," says Sandia's Ben Cook.

One demo involves a giant computer screen that will illustrate how researchers cull massive volumes of email traffic to spot signs of malicious code, before the messages can inflict damage.

"We are recognized leaders in high-performance computing R&D, a capability developed to do physics-based modeling and simulation related to our [nuclear weapons] mission that we're now applying to do scalable informatics to identify anomalies in network and other data," Cook says.

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