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KU Hosts Conference on Cybersecurity for the ‘Internet of Things’

October 17, 2018

KU hosted over 100 cybersecurity experts from across the Midwest at the KU Edwards Campus on Oct. 2 for a day-long conference on “Securing the Internet of Things.” The conference keynote speakers were Brigadier General Jennifer Buckner, U.S. Army Director of Cyber, Electronic Warfare, Information Operations and Aaron Weissenfluh, the chief information security officer for Cboe Global Markets.

An industry panel addressed the challenges of secure communications in diverse markets. The panel was moderated by Prof. John Symons for KU’s Dept of Philosophy with industry representatives, Lyle Paczkowski, Senior Technology Strategist, Sprint; Don Kleoppel, Chief Security Officer, Cerner; Rex Johnson, Director of Cybersecurity, BKD LLP; Doug Hohulin, Head of Strategic Sales, Nokia. Brian McClendon — a member of the National Academy of Engineering and former Google and Uber executive who is currently a research professor for the KU Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science — provided the closing keynote addressing the digital future.

EECS faculty discussed a variety of topics supported by the National Security Agency’s Science of Security Lablet. EECS Prof. Fengjun Li addressed Cloud Assisted IoT Systems Privacy and EECS Prof. Heechul Yun examined issues related to Side Channel Attack Resistance. More than 20 students presented the results of the security related research at the Student Poster Session.

The conference was organized by Perry Alexander, the AT&T Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Science, director of KU's Information and Telecommunication Technology Center, and the principal investigator on EECS’s NSA lablet effort. Professor Alexander said the conference arrives at a critical time: The number of devices connected to the internet will increase twentyfold during the next three years.

“Chances are there will be some problems,” he said. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) includes devices — many found in the home — that communicate with each other, providing web-based services but with little human intervention needed. Examples include home security devices, the national electric grid and, soon, self-driving cars. And yes, they come with ample security challenges.

“There are several,” Alexander said. “One of the biggest ones is that many of these devices were not designed for security at all. It's not what people were thinking about when they were designed. Another part is, a lot of these devices — internet-connected lightbulbs for example — there's not much computing on the lightbulb and therefore there's not much computing there to implement security features you might find in a normal package.”

Alexander is leading a multidisciplinary team at KU — including computer scientists, electrical and computer engineers, psychologists, sociologists and philosophers — to tackle the fundamental science underpinning the security of the IoT. The team earlier this year received funding from the National Security Agency to shore up the cybersecurity of the IoT, developing the technology that could be integrated into consumer technology in the coming few years.

Researchers from KU participating in the NSA supported Labet effort include ITTC and electrical engineering & computer science researchers, as well as experts from KU’s Departments of Psychology, Sociology and Philosophy. The work builds on Alexander’s decade-long experience working on projects with the National Security Agency, as well as a Scholarship for Service program with the National Science Foundation. Much of the work under the new effort will help train the next generation of cybersecurity experts and extend their knowledge into the private sector in the region and nationally.

The conference, Alexander said, “is one element of a larger cybersecurity thrust in EECS and at KU."

Brigadier General Jennifer Buckner, U.S. Army Director of Cyber, Electronic Warfare, Information Operations

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