Funds support multidisciplinary cybersecurity research
Early in 2016, the University of Delaware Cybersecurity Initiative
awarded grants to six teams conducting research on a range of issues,
from bio-cybersecurity and drone navigation to the use of social robots
The research teams include faculty from the colleges of Arts and
Sciences, Engineering, and Health Sciences. Each project received a
total of $30,000 over two years, including matching funds from the
Following are highlights of their progress to date.
“Recent research has shown that storytelling is a powerful tool to
shape our beliefs and behaviors,” says Chien-Chung Shen, professor in
the Department of Computer and Information Sciences. “And for children, it’s an effective way to simplify complex ideas and make them actionable.”
Shen and his team are exploring the use of social robots, which
interact and communicate with humans by following social behaviors and
rules attached to their roles, to teach children about key cybersecurity
So far, they have designed two storytelling plays on the topic of passwords by adapting the story of Little Red Riding Hood
and using the context of Pokemon Go. In addition, they have initiated
the design of other cybersecurity topics including denial of service
attacks, phishing, viruses, wireless jamming attacks, firewalls and
They are currently awaiting the delivery of a social robot so that
they can begin prototyping the designed storytelling plays as well as
scheduling experiments with children in UD’s Early Learning Center and
Social media safeguard
“The prevalence of social media has fundamentally changed how we
obtain information and communicate with each other,” says Hui Fang,
associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
“However, social media posts often consist of a mix of gossip,
misinformation and rumor, and misinformation on social media can spread
This research, which Fang is conducting with Lindsay Hoffman, associate professor in the Department of Communication,
is aimed at building a real-time analytical tool that can help users
determine whether a piece of information is “trustable.” The system is
expected to benefit a wide range of users, including journalists,
government organizations, intelligence agencies and emergency services.
Over the past year, the researchers have developed tools that can
collect information from multiple online information resources such as
Twitter and Google News. They have also built a dataset that contains a
set of rumors to enable quantitative evaluation of the developed tools.
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 us to
unprecedented vulnerabilities due to ever-increasing malicious attacks,”
says Guoquan Huang, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
“Our research is aimed at achieving attack-resilient, resource-aware,
consistent UAV navigation, an enabling technique for numerous
So far, the researchers have validated their new approach, which uses
a camera to provide additional information about the perceived
environment and to aid traditional inertial navigation systems. The
work, which tested the new system both on simulations and in
experiments, was presented at the International Workshop on the
Algorithmic Foundations of Robotics in December 2016.
Tracking cybersecurity employment
While many cities and regions have initiated economic development
programs to attract 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
“In an effort to move beyond ‘fuzzy’ definitions of cybersecurity
employment and enable rigorous tracking and evaluation, we are analyzing
cybersecurity employment, research spending and patents to characterize
the institutional context of cybersecurity across the U.S.,” says Troy
Mix, policy scientist in the Institute for Public Administration.
To date, he and his team have focused on developing a novel spatial
dataset of cybersecurity-related activity in three categories: grants
and contracts awarded by the federal government, National Science
Foundation grants made to higher education institutions, and patents
issued. These data have been collected from various federal databases
and organized according to their geographic locations, with an emphasis
on summarizing data on a county-by-county and metropolitan area basis.
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,” says Andy Novocin, assistant professor of practice in the
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Participants will network with policy-makers, defense contractors,
representatives from the financial industry and healthcare 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.
Progress to date includes marketing efforts to identify and attract
talented students. More than 30 confirmed applicants are in place for
the first cohort, with the final number expected to be closer to 50.
Bio-cybersecurity working group
Security measures to protect biological and healthcare 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, brings 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
About the 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 our 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.
The seed grants 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.
Originally published in UDaily on March 23, 2017. Article by Diane Kukich.