A Partnership to Secure and Protect the Emerging Internet of Things

Duke University partners with the National Science Foundation, Intel Corporation and universities across the nation to improve the security and privacy of computing systems that interact with the physical world

The digital world once existed largely in non-material form. But with the rise of connected homes, smart grids and autonomous vehicles, the cyber and the physical are merging in new and exciting ways. These hybrid forms are often called ‘cyber-physical systems’ (CPS), and are giving rise to a new ‘Internet of Things’ (IOT).

Such systems have unique characteristics and vulnerabilities that must be studied and addressed to make sure they are reliable and secure, and that they maintain individuals’ privacy.

The National Science Foundation (NSF), in partnership with Intel Corporation, one of the world’s leading technology companies, today announced two new grants totaling $6 million to research teams that will study solutions to address the security and privacy of cyber-physical systems. A key emphasis of these grants is to refine an understanding of the broader socioeconomic factors that influence CPS security and privacy.

One of the grants, led by Insup Lee at the University of Pennsylvania, will include researchers from the University of Michigan and Duke University. The project will explore the unique characteristics of cyber-physical systems, such as the physical dynamics, to provide approaches that mix prevention, detection and recovery, while assuring certain levels of guarantees for safety-critical automotive and medical systems.

“With this award, we will develop robust, new technologies and approaches that work together to lead to safer, more secure and privacy-preserving cyber-physical systems by developing methods to tolerate attacks on physical environment and cyberspace in addition to preventing them,” said Insup Lee, who leads the team from the University of Pennsylvania.

Joining Lee’s team from Duke is Miroslav Pajic, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. Pajic’s role in the project will be to design security-aware embedded control systems and cyber-physical systems.

The goal is to create interactive “smart” systems that can maintain control and performance over a long period of time, even when some aspects of the system have been compromised. Figuring out how to balance the interplay between security and privacy requirements and the need to continuously interact with and obtain information from the physical environment is also a key concern.

“As our lives depend more and more on these systems, specifically in the automotive, medical and Internet-of-Things domains, the results obtained in this project will have a direct and immediate impact on society at large,” said Pajic.