HR 5929, the Computer Science Education Act, was introduced in Congress today by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO). CRA, the Association for Computing Machinery, the Computer Science Teachers Association, the National Center for Women and Information Technology, the Anita Borg Institute, Microsoft, Google, Intel and SAS are all organizations that support this bill to address the concerns regarding computer science education at the K-12 level.

This legislation will fund grants to look at the condition of computer science education in each state and come up with a plan specific to each state that will address the specific reforms needed. There would also be a commission to look at computer science education nationally and design teacher preparation programs for colleges and universities.

K – 12 computer science education faces many problems that need to be addressed. The number of courses is declining, standards either do not exist or are far less rigorous in some states than others, there is very little professional development and certification is problematic for computer science teachers. All of this is happening while computing is projected to be one of the fastest growing career paths in the next decade.

More information is available here and a fact sheet on the bill can be found here.


House Panel Examines Cyber Attack Attribution

On July 15, 2010, in Security, by Brian Mosley

This morning, the House Committee on Science and Technology’s subcommittee on Technology and Innovation held a hearing entitled “Planning for the Future of Cyber Attack Attribution”. The hearing contained a panel of four witnesses — Dr. David Wheeler, a Research Staff Member of the Information Technology and Systems Division at the Institute for Defense Analyses, Mr. Robert Knake an International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Ed Giorgio, the President and Co-Founder of Ponte Technologies, Mr. Marc Rotenberg, the President of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

The purpose of the hearing was to “discuss attribution in cyber attacks, and how attribution technologies have the potential to affect the anonymity and privacy of internet users.” Witnesses answered questions ranging from ‘Can attack attribution play a role in deterring cyber attacks?’, to ‘If attribution is futile, what other methods can we use to prevent cyber attacks?’ Witnesses emphasized that while attribution is important, it is not a cure-all, and should only be a part of the security tool box.

They claimed that automatic attack attribution — e.g. having computers automatically determine the origin of an attack — was dangerous because of the possibility for failure and the assignment of wrong identities to attackers. They also, thankfully, mentioned that the internet should not be ‘locked down’, and that different segments should have varying degrees of security and privacy.

The panel stressed that anonymity on the internet conflicts with attribution. A common sentiment was that attribution must not come at the cost of normal legal internet user-privacy. Witnesses went on to posit various methods to create attack attribution without a total loss of privacy.

While the hearing touched on many topics, one of personal interest was the role of the Government in limiting the amount of data that private companies, such as Google, can record on their users. The panel claimed that increased restrictions on private companies would better secure citizens in the face of company breakdown, like the Chinese hack on Google earlier this year.

Check out the hearing’s website and the webcast.


Peter Lee, current head of DARPA’s innovative Transformational Convergence Technology Office (TCTO), will leave the agency in September to run Microsoft Research’s Redmond Lab. Before joining DARPA, Lee was Chair of the computer science department at Carnegie Mellon University, as well as Chair of CRA (and head of CRA’s Government Affairs Committee). In a press release announcing the move, Lee had this to say about this new opportunity:

“Microsoft Research is an incredible place. The researchers are truly world-class and doing work that is expanding the frontiers of knowledge,” Lee said. “And, while Microsoft Research’s revolutionary advances affect just about every desktop, enterprise and mobile system in the world, what I find most exciting is Microsoft Research’s ability to influence and inspire countless numbers of researchers, students and technology leaders. This unique combination of world-class research, impact on billions of systems and influential thought leadership is simply exhilarating. I can hardly wait to get started.”

Lee did a fantastic job as Chair of CRA, Chair of my Government Affairs Committee, and PI of the Computing Innovations Fellowship program through CCC. We have no doubt he’ll excel at Microsoft just as he has everywhere else he’s been.

It’s not known whether Lee, an avid Pittsburgh Penguin fan, will alter his hockey allegiance with his change in residency to the Pacific Northwest, but we’ll keep you updated.

Here’s Wired’s coverage of the news.