NSF, Intel put up $6m to fund IoT Security Research

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In-brief:The National Science Foundation and Intel Corp. announced a partnership to fund research into securing cyber-physical systems including connected vehicle and smart home technologies.

The National Science Foundation and Intel Corp. announced a partnership to fund research into securing cyber-physical systems connected to the Internet of Things devices.

NSF and Intel announced the collaboration on August 28 with the awarding of $6 million in grants to fund two projects from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University on privacy and security issues related to cyber physical systems.

“Advances in the integration of information and communications technologies are transforming the way people interact with engineered systems,” said Jim Kurose, head of Computer and Information Science and Engineering at NSF. That change demands “rigorous interdisciplinary research” on ways to understand and mitigate threats to cyber physical systems.

As partners, NSF and Intel will work together to put together solicitations for submissions and select projects. The intellectual property generated by the research will be subject to what is described as an “open collaborative intellectual property agreement and a management plan to facilitate effective information exchange between faculty, students and industrial researchers.”

The goal is to increase the “relevance” of long-range research and to “help top researchers in the nation’s academic and industrial laboratories transition important discoveries into innovative products and services more easily.”

Both grants are funding ongoing research and the exact distribution of the $6 million isn’t clear. Part will go to researcher Insup Lee of the University of Pennsylvania to continue work on “Security and Privacy -Aware Cyber Physical Systems.” Lee and fellow researchers have received $375,000 to date to develop methods for protecting low-power cyber physical systems from malicious attacks. Among the technologies Lee and his team are working on what are described as “novel preventive techniques based on lightweight cryptography” and “security-aware control design based on attack resilient state estimator and sensor fusions.”

Lee’s research has applications in areas such as autonomous vehicles, internal and external vehicle networks, medical device interoperability, and smart connected medical homes, according to an NSF award statement.

Also funded is Principal Investigator Philip Levis of Stanford’s research on “End-to-End Security for the Internet of Things,” which is exploring what is described as a “distributed model view controller” that will “make it possible for two developers to build a complete, secure, Internet of Things applications in three months.”

Levis in crew are working on tools that span the worlds of application development, device creation and management through deployment. Their technology is designed to allow a developer to specify what data an IoT application generates and stores, and then to secure that data as it moves between IoT endpoint, a cloud management platform and end-user applications. The group is also working to develop “software-defined hardware” that allows developers to create prototype hardware designs based on the data processing needs of their cyber physical system. Such a capability will avoid the current over reliance on generic, commercial off the shelf hardware and shared components, which can introduce unanticipated security and privacy issues.

“Our research aims to lay the groundwork and basic principles to secure computing applications that interact with the physical world as they are being built and before they are used,” Levis said. “The Internet of Things is still very new. By researching these principles now, we hope to help avoid many security disasters in the future.”

The partnership is part of an estimated $200 million in NSF grants for research into cyber physical systems in the last five years. Other NSF funded research has investigated ways to enhance privacy in smart buildings and homes and to prevent distributed denial of service attacks against unmanned vehicle operator networks.

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