Lab licenses tool to improve government computer network security

January 5, 2016, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Lab licenses tool to improve government computer network security
Credit: George Kitrinos/LLNL

Government agencies, along with state and local governments, could receive a helping hand from a computer network security tool developed by computer scientists and engineers at DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The LLNL software-based technology, known as the Network Mapping System (NeMS), has been licensed to Cambridge Global Advisors, a Washington, D.C.-area strategic advisory firm.

"We developed this capability to discover and characterize computer networks," said Celeste Matarazzo, a principal investigator for cybersecurity in the Lab's Global Security Principal Directorate. "It is important to know what you have on your networks, so that you can decide what best practices to apply."

Rich Rankin, the director of LLNL's Industrial Partnerships Office, called the commercialization of NeMS "a significant step forward in protecting the nation's network environment."

In effect, NeMS provides network managers with a comprehensive view of their environments. It has been used at different times to support the computer network security operations at several federal agencies.

"What NeMS helps you do is to discover the things you didn't know about your computer network," Matarazzo said, adding that network discovery is one of three key functions provided by NeMS.

If a rogue computer has access to a computer network, it won't be using a company's virus protection system, she said. The goal is to uncover any unauthorized devices to ensure a company is not at risk.

A second service provided by NeMS is the capability to identify which computers are communicating, the structure of the network, the protocols used in communication and other attributes of the organization's computer network.

Finally, NeMS permits security and information technology professionals to conduct their own customized analysis of computer network environments of interest, Matarazzo said.

Nearly all of the commercial network monitoring and visualization tools currently available work in either passive mode, which "watches" activity between network targets, or active mode, which scans and probes a network. NeMS combines the two modes—collecting data by watching and probing the network—to more fully characterize the operating environment.

NeMS' scans and analysis can reveal valuable information such as misconfigurations and other system errors that might make a network vulnerable to attack.

NeMS can characterize a network from multiple vantage points, and merges the results into a single data store for analysis. The software's monitoring and characterization tools can generate a new map, corroborate or update existing maps or fuse the data collected with additional information on an organization's network.

The commercial licensing of NeMS was aided by the Department of Homeland Security's "Transition to Practice Program," which Matarazzo called "a very valuable experience."

"We met entrepreneurs and have been able to present our capabilities to a wide variety of audiences—Silicon Valley, the energy sector in Houston, the financial sector in New York and others.

"We've been exposed to the entrepreneurial process, the venture capital community and have had some very engaging discussions about where NeMS could go," Matarazzo said.

She described the NeMS team as computer scientists and engineers who are collaborative and productive, with a passionate mission to improve computer security. Other team leaders included computer engineer Domingo Colon and NeMS project manager and computational physicist Evi Dube.

The NeMS software has been developed over the past 15 years, with a major rewrite of the code in 2011 and a push in 2013 into advanced research directions through internal Laboratory Directed Research and Development funding.

Explore further: Closing a malware security loophole

Related Stories

Closing a malware security loophole

December 7, 2015

An add-on for antivirus software that can scan across a computer network and trap malicious activity missed by the system firewall is being developed by an international team. Details are reported in the International Journal ...

Researchers study users to increase cyber security

September 28, 2015

Missouri University of Science and Technology researchers are working to build a framework to study the online behavior of Internet users and how that behavior affects the safety of systems and networks.

State Dept unclassified computer network back online

March 17, 2015

The State Department says portions of its unclassified computer network that it shut down last week are back online. That follows the completion of security upgrades in response to attempted hacking attacks.

NSA seeks recruits via Twitter

June 7, 2013

The National Security Agency (NSA) is looking for a few good cybersnoops. This week's furor over top-secret collection of phone records and online data isn't deterring the US government's electronic intelligence-gathering ...

Detecting malicious files uploaded to cloud services

August 12, 2015

A powerful new computer security tool, called XDet, can detect malicious files being uploaded to a cloud computing service is reported this month in the International Journal of Space-Based and Situated Computing by researchers ...

Recommended for you

Top takeaways from Consumers Electronics Show

January 13, 2018

The 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, which concluded Friday in Las Vegas, drew some 4,000 exhibitors from dozens of countries and more than 170,000 attendees, showcased some of the latest from the technology world.

Finnish firm detects new Intel security flaw

January 12, 2018

A new security flaw has been found in Intel hardware which could enable hackers to access corporate laptops remotely, Finnish cybersecurity specialist F-Secure said on Friday.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.