NSF provides more than $150,000 for security grant

The National Science Foundation has provided more than $150,000 to help researchers at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock explore effective solutions to security threats on wireless devices.

Dr. Shucheng YuThe grant’s principal investigator is Dr. Shucheng Yu, an expert in cyber security and assistant professor in UALR’s Computer Science Department.

Yu said the two-year grant addresses a paramount issue in an era in which billions of wireless devices are in use throughout critical sectors of American life.

“Imagine if medical wireless devices, such as pacemakers, are wirelessly hacked? Or if a vehicle’s wireless device is controlled by malicious attackers via radio?” Yu asked.

“These scenarios were previously seen only on television dramas, but researchers have discovered hundreds such attacks, or even more severe, against real-world wireless devices.”

Yu’s innovative idea is to enhance security using the first line defense with something called wireless channel fingerprinting.

Analyzing “fingerprints” of wireless channels, Yu said researchers today can study the specific characteristics of a device to identify a unique cyber signature in much the same way that detectives can identify a criminal by analyzing the patterns of an actual fingerprint.

Built on this foundation of fingerprinting available on all wireless devices, the project could lead to a game-changing security solution that will be compatible with billions of devices, according to Yu.

The NSF grant is funded through a branch of the foundation dedicated to supporting untested but potentially transformative work. Early-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) funding is ‘high risk-high payoff’ because it involves radically different approaches, applies new expertise, or engages novel disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspectives, according to the NSF website.

The grant award also adds a significant component to education at UALR, according to UALR Chancellor Joel E. Anderson.

“This significant research project will provide a unique opportunity for students to learn techniques to defend against wireless cyber-attacks. This is another way students are learning to provide innovative solutions for growing challenges.”

Dr. Yu’s grant is titled “EAGER: Utilizing Contextual Channel Characteristics for Secure Communications in Wireless Ad Hoc Networks.”

For more information on the computer science program, go to the Computer Science Department.

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