News Service


Doug Jacobson, Electrical and Computer Engineering, (515) 294-8307
Jim Davis, Electrical and Computer Engineering, (515) 294- 0659
Mitch Mihalovich, Engineering Communications, (515) 294- 4344
Skip Derra, News Service, (515) 294-4917


AMES, Iowa -- Jim Davis and Doug Jacobson, associate professors of electrical and computer engineering at Iowa State University, are developing methods to detect and stop the latest form of cyber attack -- information terrorism.

"Conventional attacks occur when an intruder gains access to computers and steals information," said Jacobson. "The latest type of terrorist engages in information warfare, where the goal is to shut down or disrupt services. That could mean the Pentagon or the banking industry -- any Internet web site could be in danger."

Jacobson said the number of attacks launched by hackers who remotely shutdown or damage computers has steadily increased, and that as society becomes more dependent on computers and computer networks, we are at greater risk of a devastating attack.

"Unlike traditional terrorists, information terrorists can launch an attack from the safety of their own country with just a computer on the Internet," said Davis. "The odds of getting caught are very slim, since the attacks generally destroy all evidence."

Davis and Jacobson, who've worked in the computer and network security areas for several years, along with Cliff Bergman, a cryptography expert from Iowa State's mathematics department, created the Information Systems Security Laboratory (ISSL) at ISU. This state-of-the-art facility, one of the largest academic computer security labs in the country, provides an isolated environment to carry out the attacks.

The professors and four students study past cyber attacks, such as the Ping of Death and the Syn Flood Attack, two of the most recent and best known attacks.

"By seeing how these attacks were carried out, we can anticipate future attacks and develop software and hardware that would detect and stop it before it happens. These cyber attacks happen so rapidly, that after detecting it, it's too late. The damage has been done," said Jacobson.

The National Security Agency provided the researchers with a $195,000 grant. For more information you can visit the ISSL web site at


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