Posted on 26 Feb 2021 11:24 AM

Call for Hard Problems in the Science of Security

Science of Security Hard Problems for the 2020s

Do you know a hard problem for cybersecurity science? If so, present it to the Science of Security (SoS) community at the 2021 Hot Topics in the Science of Security Virtual Symposium (April 13-15, 2021). The SoS community influencers are revisiting the SoS Hard Problems and their definitions in preparation for a second decade of the National Security Agency (NSA) Science of Security and Privacy Program.

Germane hard problem submissions will be invited to give a five minute presentation at a HotSoS breakout discussion session. The SoS Lablet Principal Investigators and NSA leaders will consider the proposed hard problems in a revisit to the Hard Problems report.

Submit at
Submission deadline: March 17, 2021 AOE

What is the Science of Security?

The Science of Security and Privacy Program is an initiative funded by the National Security Agency to support foundational cybersecurity research. It funds basic research projects at universities in small labs called the SoS Lablets. It organizes an annual paper competition and sponsors an innovative conference, Hot Topics in the Science of Security (HotSoS). More information about the Science of Security program can be found on the SoS Virtual Organization (

What are the SoS Hard Problems?

The 5 current SoS Hard Problems were defined by the Principal Investigators of the SoS Lablets in 2012. These hard problems are: Resilient Architectures; Policy-Governed Secure Collaboration; Scalability and Composability; Security-Metrics - Driven Evaluation, Design, Development, and Deployment and Understanding and Accounting for Human Behavior.

The hard problems definitions are used by NSA to shape the research it funds in its Science of Security Program. Funded projects are required to report progress against the hard problems.

More Information and definitions:

What Makes a Good SoS Hard Problem?

Hard problems are identified because of their level of technical challenge, their potential operational significance, and their likelihood of benefiting from emphasis on scientific research methods and improved measurement capabilities. The hard problems are to be crisply stated and well-scoped, to assist the community in assessing progress towards solutions. Solutions may have the feature of incrementality, in that discernible steps will lead towards an overall solution. Each step can make an incremental impact even when a fully comprehensive solution may remain elusive.

Attachments: PDF icon SoS2021_cfHP.pdf