Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Announcing the 2021 Trusted CI Annual Challenge on Software Assurance

The Trusted CI “Annual Challenge” is a year-long project focusing on a particular topic of importance to cybersecurity in scientific computing environments.  In its first year, the Trusted CI Annual Challenge focused on issues in trustworthy data.  Now, in its second year, the Annual Challenge is focusing on software assurance in scientific computing.

The scientific computing community develops large amounts of software.  At the largest scale, projects can have millions of lines of code.  And indeed, the software used in scientific computing and the vulnerabilities present in scientific computing can be similar to that used in other domains.  At the same time, the software developers have usually come from traditional scientific focused domains rather than traditional software engineering backgrounds.  And, in comparison to other domains, there's often less emphasis on software assurance.

Trusted CI has a long history in addressing the software assurance of scientific software, both through engagements with individual scientific software teams, as well as through courses and tutorials frequently taught at conferences and workshops by Elisa Heyman and Barton Miller, from University of Wisconsin-Madison.  This year’s Annual Challenge seeks to complement those existing efforts in a focused way, and leveraging a larger team.  Specifically, this year’s Annual Challenge seeks to broadly improve the robustness of software used in scientific computing with respect to security.  It will do this by spending the March–June  2021 timeframe engaging with developers of scientific software to understand the range of software development practices being used and identifying opportunities to improve practices and code implementation to minimize the risk of vulnerabilities.  In the second half of 2021, we will leverage our insights to develop a guide specifically aimed at the scientific software community that covers software assurance in a way most appropriate to that community,.  

We seek to optimize the impact of our efforts in 2021 by focusing our effort on software that is widely used, is situated in vulnerable locations, and is developed mostly by individuals who do not have traditional software engineering backgrounds and training.

This year’s Annual Challenge is supported by a stellar team of Trusted CI staff, including Andrew Adams (Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center), Kay Avila (National Center for Supercomputing Applications), Ritvik Bhawnani (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Elisa Heyman (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Mark Krenz (Indiana University), Jason Lee (Berkeley Lab/ NERSC), Barton Miller (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and Sean Peisert (Berkeley Lab; 2021 Annual Challenge Project Lead).