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Blue Waters Supercomputer

Blue Waters is the largest and fastest system ever developed for the National Science Foundation. It has served thousands of engineers, scientists and educators across the nation over the past few years, in particular, , including those who scientists with unique jobs that can't be served by other systems. With tens of thousands of nodes and 450 Gbps of external WAN connectivity on an open network, Blue Waters presents a unique set of challenges to secure.

NCSA CyberSecurity team worked to redesign security from the ground up with this new system and the National Petascale Computing Facility during the 5 years going up to full operations. Using risk based methods to develop a new security program and architecture, we have achieved the gold standard of security in the community of NSF cyberinfrastructure being the first system to require two-factor authentication, designing and deploying one of the first 100Gbps network monitoring infrastructures with the Bro IDS, and testing many other security technologies at unprecedented scale.

Bro Network Security Monitor






Center Cyber-protection

Cybersecurity at NCSA provides for the protection of the center's digital assets and those of key partners through the many services we provide. We have a 24/7 incident response team that performs full digital forensics and coordinates with law enforcement and other institutions. Preventative security is provided by our vulnerability management program, risk assessments & security architecting, automatic blocking, and more. We run over 60 servers to provide the monitoring, logging and other security services, including one of the largest production Bro Zeek clusters in the world. The CyberSecurity division is also responsible for training staff, notifying reliant parties of new vulnerabilities, creating policies and much more security awareness work. Finally, we participate in several organizations and maintain collaborations with XSEDE, CERN, and others in the community.


The Custos project provides security middleware for science gateways. The project is a collaboration between Indiana University, Johns Hopkins University, and NCSA.


The CILogon project enables use of federated identities by science projects. The project develops open source software that implements security standards including OAuth, SAML, and X.509. CILogon is an InCommon federation research and scholarship service provider that enables federated access to Globus, OSG, LIGO, XSEDE, and other cyberinfrastructure. NCSA offers subscriptions to organizations that use CILogon.

Duo at NCSA

Duo is a Multi-factor authentication system provided to NCSA account holders by an agreement with the University of Illinois. Through this agreement NCSA is provided with a Duo instance that is separate from the University's to accommodate the unique challenges at NCSA.


GSI-OpenSSH is a modified version of OpenSSH that adds support for GSI authentication and credential forwarding (delegation), providing a single sign-on remote login and file transfer service.

Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST)

The Cyber Security Division at the NCSA provides cyber security policy and security operations services to the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. CSD helps secure and ensure that the LSST fulfills its scientific mission that includes delivering 200 petabyte set of images and data products.


MyProxy is open source software for managing X.509 Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) security credentials (certificates and private keys). MyProxy combines an online credential repository with an online certificate authority to allow users to securely obtain credentials when and where needed. Users run myproxy-logon to authenticate and obtain credentials, including trusted CA certificates and Certificate Revocation Lists (CRLs).

Science DMZ Actionable Intelligence Appliance (SDAIA)

SDAIA aims to secure Science DMZs and cyber-infrastructure, and provide the cybersecurity research community with a rich, real-world intelligence source upon which to test their theories, tools, and techniques. Science DMZs support big data and access to high-performance computation through very high bandwidth networks in an open environment that presents new challenges to the traditional university security stance. SDAIA provides a holistic approach that will address the special Science DMZ architecture through a virtual security appliance that benefits from external, shared intelligence to protect the site, and further provide intelligence to the wider community of both DMZ operators and cybersecurity researchers.


The management of security credentials such as passwords and secret keys for computational science workflows is a burden for scientists and information security officers. Problems with security credentials (e.g., expiration, privilege mismatch) cause the workflows to fail to fetch needed input data or store valuable scientific results, distracting scientists from their research by requiring them to diagnose the problems, re-run their computations, and wait longer for their results. In an effort to avoid these problems, scientists often use long-lived, highly-privileged credentials (e.g., enabling the workflow to fully impersonate their identity), increasing risks to their accounts and to the underlying computational infrastructure and resulting in complexity for information security officers managing the infrastructure. The SciTokens project delivers open source software to help scientists manage their security credentials more reliably and securely. The project includes participants from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) Scientific Collaboration and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) project to ensure relevance and facilitate adoption. Integration with the widely-used HTCondor software and collaboration with Open Science Grid and the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) facilitates adoption by the wider scientific community.

To address the challenges and risks of managing security credentials for scientific workflows, the SciTokens project delivers an open source software infrastructure that uses IETF-standard Open Authorization (OAuth) tokens for capability-based secure access to remote scientific data. SciTokens uses OAuth refresh tokens, maintained securely on the submission node, to delegate short-lived, least-privilege OAuth access tokens to scientific workflows, to enable their remote data access. The access tokens convey the specific authorizations needed by the workflows, rather than general-purpose authentication impersonation credentials. These least-privilege authorization tokens help to address the risks of scientific workflows running on distributed infrastructure including NSF resources (e.g., LIGO Data Grid, Open Science Grid, XSEDE) and public clouds (e.g., Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure). By improving the interoperability and security of scientific workflows, the SciTokens project 1) enables use of distributed computing for scientific domains that require greater data protection and 2) enables use of more widely distributed computing resources by reducing the risk of credential abuse on remote systems.

Software Assurance Marketplace

The Software Assurance Marketplace (SWAMP) provides a no-cost, high-performance, centralized cloud computing platform that includes an array of  open-source and commercial software security testing tools, as well as a comprehensive results viewer to simplify vulnerability remediation. A first in the industry, the SWAMP also offers a library of applications with known vulnerabilities, enabling tool developers to improve the effectiveness of their own static and dynamic testing tools. Created to advance the state of cybersecurity, protect critical infrastructures, and improve the resilience of open-source software, the SWAMP integrates security into the software development life cycle and keeps all user activities completely confidential.

Trusted CI

Trusted CI is the NSF Cybersecurity Center of Excellence. Its activities include one-on-one engagements with NSF projects to address their cybersecurity challenges; education, outreach, and training to raise the state of security practice across the scientific enterprise; and leadership on bringing the best and most relevant cybersecurity research to bear on the NSF cyberinfrastructure research community.

XSEDE Federation

XSEDE is a federation of service providers and virtual organizations that have come together to bring high-performance computing to scientists at research institutions across the U.S. The mission of XSEDE is to enhance the productivity of scientists and engineers by providing them with new and innovative capabilities and thus facilitate scientific discovery while enabling transformational science/engineering and innovative educational programs. 

The XSEDE project is led out of NCSA, and the security operations team in particular is co-led by NCSA CyberSecurity director Adam Slagell and Jim Marsteller director Alex Withers and Derek Simmel at PSCJim Basney of NCSA's CyberSecurity division is also the security lead for XSEDE's Requirements Analysis & Capability Delivery (RACD) team, driving many of the IdM and security projects like the single-sign-on hub and Duo two-factor authentication integration.