NSERC Internetworked Systems Security Network (2008-2013)

The primary focus of ISSNet is computer and network security emphasizing computer systems research, with an experimental or observational approach. This “hands on” research is directly related to the Internet wherever possible.

Our network consists of leading researchers in computer and network security and related areas from academia, industry and both provincial and federal governments. Funded by a five year grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada NSERC, with support from industry and government partners, NSERC ISSNet is a Canadian network of specialists whose focus is to advance research, mentoring and scientific training in computer and Internet security, and to collaborate with partners in government and industry to explore research problems relevant to the real world. 

NSERC ISSNet Overview Slide Presentation

NSERC ISSNet Challenge

The Internet is critical to essentially all aspects of today’s society. Virtually all government and industrial activities rely on computer and information networks, making both individuals and organizations highly dependent on a functioning Internet. With almost universal societal reliance on online activity, the exposure to new risks related to software and Internet security has increased dramatically. However, the average user is typically unaware of the risks involved in daily activities, from online banking and purchasing to relying on the Internet platform for managing critical infrastructures and financial systems.

The challenge for NSERC ISSNet is to understand the emerging threats to Internet usability, security, and stability, and to devise techniques and mechanisms to better protect against these threats. The focus is largely on malicious software which exploits software vulnerabilities, and malicious activity on the Internet.

Network Structure

NSERC Internetworked Systems Security Network (NSERC ISSNet) is focused on collaboration among researchers. Participants include leading Canadian researchers from eight universities who are world‐class experts in network‐ oriented, software systems‐oriented and human‐oriented security; supplemented by government and industrial partners.

NSERC’s Strategic Networks Grants program awarded ISSNet $5 million in research funds for 2008‐13. An additional 20 per cent of its funds come from direct industrial contributions. The Network’s major sponsors are Carleton University, CA Canada Inc., the Province of British Columbia, Research in Motion Limited, and Bell Canada. The Network is also proud to have support from Telecom Applications Research Alliance, Third Brigade, and  ParetoLogic, among others.

Research Objectives

The overall research approach is hands‐on and experimentally based, driven by real world problems using real network data and software. NSERC ISSNet will train tomorrow’s leaders in Internet security, as graduate students and post‐doctoral fellows will be vital to this project. The Network's goals are:

  • to address the critical shortage of skilled workers in the area of computer and network security, by training and mentoring highly qualified personnel to meet both present and future security requirements;
  • to grow a pool of talented and knowledgeable personnel with expertise in the security and stability of the Internet and who can understand and address threats to this stability;
  • to develop security technologies providing protection against evolving threats, and that advance competitive interests in an increasingly knowledge‐based global economy; and
  • to direct research projects directly related to understanding and defending against security and stability threats to our Internet infrastructure, and reliant critical infrastructures.


NSERC ISSNet’s research will lead to innovative talent and technologies, including:

  • new mechanisms and technologies promoting usability and security, based on principles in human‐computer interaction;
  • the development of Canadian expertise to address attacks to software‐based networks, including expanded expertise among university researchers and a mentoring program for the next generation of highly qualified personnel;
  • the transfer of knowledge to Canadian industries as a result of the network’s collaborative research focus and the flow of trained graduate students into industry;
  • industry partners obtaining new, cutting‐edge tools and expertise needed to secure vital information systems;
  • significant benefits to Canada’s economy and society by providing collaborative research that will enhance industry products and business prospects; and
  • the dissemination of the Network’s results and technology transfer to appropriate organizations.