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Researchers Receive $1.3M for Cyber Security

NSF Funding Will Help Enhance Wireless Use

By Edwin L. Aguirre

Five professors at UMass Lowell’s Center for Network and Information Security (CNIS) have received more than $1.3 million in grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) this academic year. The funds will help support projects designed not only to enhance wireless connectivity and computer-science education but also help protect our national cyber infrastructure.

“The number of cyber crimes has increased dramatically as mobile computing, wireless networks and the Internet become pervasive and ubiquitous,” says Prof. Jie Wang, chair of the Computer Science Department and director of the CNIS. “Common cyber crimes include sexual exploitation of children, identity theft, intellectual property theft, financial fraud and industrial espionage, to name just a few.”

For example, last December, hackers in China used stealth programming and exploited a weakness in Internet Explorer to launch coordinated, highly sophisticated attacks on Google, Adobe and dozens of other high-profile companies to steal intellectual property.

And in February, authorities arrested three Spaniards suspected of infecting 13 million computers in more than 190 countries with a program that allowed them to steal personal and financial data. These incidents are just the latest examples of the ongoing worldwide battle against cyber crime.

The NSF grant recipients and their projects are:

  • Xinwen Fu, Benyuan Liu and Jie Wang(Computer Science) -- $500,278 from the NSF’s Computing Research Infrastructure program to build cyber trace-back toolkits;
  • Guanling Chen (Computer Science) -- $300,000 from the NSF’s Division of Information and Intelligent Systems to develop algorithms and toolkits to diagnose and troubleshoot smartphone access problems;
  • Xinwen Fu -- $75,000 from the NSF’s Division of Computer and Communication Foundations to develop a novel theoretical foundation for wireless positioning in challenging environments, including cyber crime scenes;
  • Benyuan Liu -- $400,000 from the NSF’s CAREER award for research on wireless sensor networks;
  • Xinwen Fu, Yan Luo (Electrical and Computer Engineering) and Jie Wang -- $72,000 from the NSF’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program to support student research.

In addition, Fu and Liu have been notified by the NSF that the agency is interested in recommending for funding their Course Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement proposal to create learning materials and strategies for network forensics education. The project is expected to bring in an additional $188,000.

Wang says digital forensics research aims to develop techniques for carrying out investigation of alleged crimes and violations involving digital data.

“Cyber forensics is a fast-growing area and serves a critical role in industry, federal and state law enforcement, and other national cyber-defense forces,” he says. That is why the CNIS is proposing the creation of a Cyber Forensics Laboratory on campus for complex cyber crime-scene investigations.

“We advocate cyber forensics research and education to be one of the strategic priorities at UMass Lowell,” says Wang. “With our increasing reliance on the Internet and with more content being added online everyday, we envision the lab to generate long-term impact and attract substantial funding from various federal and industrial agencies.”

Jie Wang