UD CSI awards funds to support multidisciplinary cybersecurity concepts

The University of Delaware Cybersecurity Initiative has awarded six grants to support research projects addressing a range of issues from bio-cybersecurity and drone navigation to the use of social robots for education.

The research teams include faculty from the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Health Sciences.

Each project will receive a total of $30,000 over two years, including matching funds from the colleges.

The program was established by the Office of the Provost to cultivate multidisciplinary cybersecurity exploration at the University as an essential component in contributing to the existing and future cybersecurity workforce.

The 2016 grants went to:

Bio-cybersecurity working group

Security measures to protect biological and health care data lag behind those in other sectors such as financial services and the military, leaving individuals as well as groups of patients vulnerable to having medical and/or personal information stolen and misused.

This project, a joint venture between the UD College of Health Sciences and the University of Vermont’s Global Health Unit, will bring together an interdisciplinary group of researchers from medicine, nursing, computer science, biology and cybersecurity to address the issue of protecting private health data, including financial, illness, medication use and genetic makeup information.

Social media safeguard

The prevalence of social media has fundamentally changed how people obtain information and communicate with each other, but social media posts often consist of a mix of gossip, misinformation and rumor. Failing to identify such misinformation can cause misleading text mining results, which may lead to bad business decisions. Unlike traditional web spam, which is relatively static, the misinformation on social media is more dynamic and can be spread rapidly.

This research is aimed at building a real-time analytical tool that can help a user infer whether a piece of information is “trustable.” The developed system is expected to benefit a wide range of users, including journalists, government organizations, intelligence agencies, and emergency services.

Secure drone navigation

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, have gained importance in a wide range of applications, such as search and rescue, reconnaissance and surveillance, and delivery services. The economic impact of their integration into the national airspace is predicted to be significant, but their use exposes the public to unprecedented vulnerabilities due to ever-increasing malicious attacks.

This research is aimed at achieving attack-resilient, resource-aware, consistent UAV navigation, an enabling technique for numerous drone-based applications.

Tracking cybersecurity employment

While many cities and regions have initiated economic development programs focused on attracting cyber-related industries, such efforts must be grounded by an understanding of the role a region’s economic ecosystem — its institutional context — plays in determining the growth of particular industries.

In an effort to move beyond “fuzzy” definitions of cybersecurity employment and enable rigorous tracking and evaluation, this research will analyze cybersecurity employment, research spending, and patents to characterize the institutional context of cybersecurity across the U.S.

Developing cyber leaders

This project will launch a four-year undergraduate program to attract, develop and empower high-caliber students from a broad range of disciplines as the next generation of leaders who know how to shape the cultures that create secure digital infrastructures. The students will identify and understand the most pressing defense questions and work together to find practical interdisciplinary answers.

They will network with policy-makers, defense contractors, representatives from the financial industry, and health care IT specialists to discuss security issues from a variety of perspectives; devise practical strategies to address simulated cyber-attack scenarios; perform security audits of local companies; and engage in case studies exploring the legal issues surrounding all aspects of cyber warfare.

Cybersecurity education

In the same way that children are educated about the risks of drugs, smoking, or violence, it is critical that they also be educated about the importance of cybersecurity. Social robots — autonomous robots that interact and communicate with humans by following social behaviors and rules attached to their roles — have been used in recent years as educational companions to children, teaching them new vocabulary, math concepts and social skills.

Recent research suggests that children strongly prefer learning with robots and view them to be more like people than like a tablet. This project will explore the use of social robots for cybersecurity education through storytelling games that address key cybersecurity issues.

About the UD Cybersecurity Initiative

The mission of the University of Delaware Cybersecurity Initiative (UD CSI) is to establish UD as a center of excellence in cybersecurity that encompasses research, education, workforce training and development and promotes partnerships among the government, private and academic communities. UD CSI’s strategic focus is to serve as the cybersecurity hub for corporate America.

UD CSI is expanding the pipeline of skilled cybersecurity workers that the nation needs now and in the future; producing unbiased research and standard protocols for optimal security so that every type and size of business can protect itself; and helping individuals and businesses adopt best practices to handle this ever-growing threat.

UD CSI is developing programs through relationships with a broad array of partners, including government agencies, private industry and other academic institutions.

Article by Diane Kukich