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November 7, 2013

Engineering receives grants for cybersecurity

By Robert Bray

The Fenn College of Engineering held an Alumni Speaker Series event on cybersecurity on Oct. 30. The presentation focused on cybersecurity risks due to various hacking methods.

“There are too many to list,” said Steve Belovich, CEO of IQware Solutions. He explained that the hacking methods are increasing due to the amount of technology used on a daily basis.

Cybersecurity has become a prominent issue following all the spying going on around the world on the Internet. Network hacking, automobile hacking and drone hacking were some examples he gave, along with medical device hacking. He explained that it’s possible for a hacker to commit murder.

“With a pacemaker, which directly impacts heart function, there is the possibility of doing great physical harm, potentially leading to death by tampering with the operation of the device, including powering it down,” he said.

The lecture was because of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering’s three recent grants from the National Science Foundation.

The first grant, for the amount of $252,699, is for the subject of security and privacy protection for 4G/LTE communications. This grant allows the department to purchase equipment necessary to see 4G/LTE signals over the air.

“That will help us to bring related experiments to undergraduate classes,” said Dr. Chansu Yu, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, who is also co-principal investigator of the grants.

The second grant is $120,000. It’s designed to develop a course for undergraduate students of all levels for hands-on learning of computer security.

“Namely, network and information security, software security and hardware security,” said Dr. Yu. “The course will follow a distinctive hands-on teaching approach using a well-designed set of experiments as a learning tool. Students will be able to ‘hack’ a system at different levels and analyze existing countermeasures,” he said.

The course will start in Spring 2015.

The third grant is $202,251. It will be used to research security protection, specifically password security, in mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

“I think it’s a great idea we’re offering classes on that particular topic,” said Nick Hostoffer, a Computer Engineering student. "Cybersecurity is an important issue today. It’s going to be more important in the future.”