Award-Winning Author Could Change How Government Does Cybersecurity

October 2017
George Wilamowski
George Wilamowski

When George Wilamowski received his doctoral hood in May from The George Washington University, he added "award-winning writer" to his list of professional and academic credentials.

Wilamowski, who joined MITRE in 2007, is a systems engineer at MITRE’s Quantico, Virginia, site. He has bachelor's and master's degrees in several fields, including business, data processing information systems, and software engineering, and now a Ph.D. in systems engineering.

As a requirement for his doctoral program, Wilamowski needed to publish his research. That's when he turned to MITRE colleague Kevin Buck about the possibility of submitting his manuscript on cybersecurity metrics to the Defense Acquisition Research Journal. The journal is a peer-reviewed publication of the Defense Acquisition University (DAU). Buck, a member of the journal's advisory board, helped open the door for Wilamowski.

The journal published "Using Analytical Hierarchy and Analytical Network Processes to Create Cyber Security Metrics, " in its April 2017 edition. Not only that, but it won first place in the DAU Alumni Association's Hirsch Research Paper Competition.

According to the DAU, the Hirsch prize recognizes research papers "that best meet the criteria of significance, impact, and readability. "

Mitigating Risks to Sponsor Networks

Wilamowski has spent the last decade helping our sponsors keep their command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance networks secure.

His expertise lies in analyzing the risks—whether natural, accidental, or intentional disruption or degradation—to their networks. He then develops and recommends measures to minimize the risk to operations.

In addition, he provides cybersecurity architecture support that helps MITRE sponsors efficiently maintain high-technical capabilities. He also develops risk management tools to identify and quantify potential cybersecurity and network risks. This type of analysis formed the basis of his dissertation and award-winning journal article.

"Humans are unpredictable," he says. "Using an analytical methodology [such as the Analytical Hierarchy and Analytical Network Processes he developed for his research] to quantify opinions makes our sponsors' hard decisions easier." It's exactly this type of guidance our sponsors rely on MITRE for.  

Gathering Data to Support Cyber Decision Makers

Wilamowski's research and methodology has the potential to change the way government agencies measure their vulnerability to cyber threats, respond to threats, and redirect their budgets accordingly. For his dissertation, which focused on both the federal government and the commercial sector, Wilamowski conducted a comprehensive survey. He asked more than 500 people 52 questions about cyber threats, defense, and vulnerabilities to their data network's system security.

He concluded that "authentication, authorization, and accounting are the last lines of defense and key access control measures that decision makers should consider when crafting a defense against cyber attacks."

Wilamowski says his study "will provide cybersecurity decision makers a method for quantifying the judgments of their technical employees regarding effective cybersecurity policy."

Prize Money Goes to a Good Cause

Kevin Buck praises the work—and the author. "George's manuscript not only represents the culmination of his doctoral thesis," he says. "It embodies wisdom gained over a career devoted to consistently delivering quality MITRE work."

Wilamowski learned about his win just minutes before he presented a briefing on the paper at the DAU. "I was totally blown away when they rushed me with a big check," he says of the $1,000 prize.

A framed photo of Wilamowski holding that "big check" hangs in his MITRE Quantico office. But the retired Marine Corps captain decided to donate the real prize to the Semper Fi Foundation, which supports Marines (many of whom return home with injuries) and their families.

MITRE Vice President Mark Maybury sums it up well. "George's outstanding efforts reflect MITRE's values of technical excellence, public interest, and people in partnership, notably his generosity to those less fortunate."

by B. Denise Hawkins and Kay Upham

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