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NSF awards two grants to IUPUI to improve the security and privacy of scientific infrastructures and cybersecurity education

INDIANAPOLIS--Xukai Zou, Ph.D., a professor of computer and information science at the Purdue School of Science has received two grants totaling $829,997 from the National Science Foundation.

The first grant from the NSF which totals $599,998 will be used to improve the security and privacy of scientific infrastructures. "The research is to build a secure, holistic and resilient cybersecurity architecture incorporated into scientific infrastructures like JetStream or healthcare/medical information systems so that collaborative research and education projects can share data and/or computing resources securely among its diverse users," said Xukai Zou. "It stems from the security and privacy needs to protect sensitive data like protected health information and scientific workflows in shared scientific research environments." A key part of this research will include its own cryptographic key management mechanism which has normally been ignored or assumed to already exist in other cybersecurity research projects.

Jetstream is a cloud-based system that benefits researchers in a range of scientific fields. This project will build a secure and resilient cybersecurity system on Jetstream so collaborative research and education projects can share protected health information securely between its users. Zou says this will be beneficial to the general public. "When applied to healthcare and life-science cyberinfrastructures, it will enable sensitive health data to be shared securely, an essential requirement for accelerating life-saving discovery."

The second grant from the NSF for $229,999 will improve cybersecurity education by using electronic voting as the base. "It stems from the need for interactive learning and dynamic/adaptive computer science course curricula on one hand, and the rich technological and non-technological features of voting and election, particularly, electronic voting, on the other hand," said Zou.

Elections and voting are major parts of democratic societies. Electronic voting in particular is a unique technology with security and integrity requirements and for students it's not a new concept. "The proposed interactive teaching and learning framework is based on our own research achievement, called fully transparent, verifiable, and assurable remote electronic voting involving multiple parties of conflicting interests, and will enable students to easily get into cybersecurity field and help students learn/master broad security and privacy concepts/principles/techniques in a natural and engaged manner, thus, greatly improving students' learning outcomes," said Zou.

Not only will students' learning outcomes improve, it will also attract more students to the cybersecurity field. Zou says it will be developed as self-contained transferable learning objects that can be adapted and used by instructors across universities and across courses.

Zou says the grants from the NSF are reaffirming of the work already being done at the Purdue School of Science. "These two grants in one sense mean that the National Science Foundation and cybersecurity research community have recognized our research group's long term effort on tackling essential, critical, and difficult security research and application problems and our capability to design rigorous, solid, and practical solutions for these problems," said Zou. "From another aspect, the grants will help us to develop practical secure architecture and system which will help the public and particularly researchers and students. These grants will also enable us to conduct more cutting-edge research."

The grants will be used to support graduate and undergraduate students participating in the research and the development tasks of the projects, attend international conferences and help share the research and development results.

Zou would like to give his thanks to Dr. Saptarshi Purkayastha and Dr. Huanmei Wu, the Co-PIs of the cybersecurity project, for their collaborative efforts. He also adds this thought on the collaborative e-voting education research project. "I feel fortunate and grateful that I have been having such an opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Matt Bishop from University of California Davis who is an internationally famous expert in computer security and electronic voting communities and the PI of the project at UCD site."

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