By Sherry DiBari

The Coastal Virginia Center for Cyber Innovation (COVA), southeastern Virginia's node of the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI), awarded $750,000 in funding to four research teams led by faculty from Old Dominion University, and one team led by researchers at the College of William & Mary. Funding for the projects, for the fiscal year 2022, is provided by the CCI to support cybersecurity research in Virginia.

"Supporting cutting-edge research that promises to enhance the economy is central to what we do in the Coastal Virginia Center for Cyber Innovation," said Brian Payne, Old Dominion University's vice provost for academic affairs and COVA CCI director. "Each of these projects align well with the mission of our node and the broader Commonwealth Cyber Initiative."

The projects are collaborative efforts led by researchers from different universities working together to solve cybersecurity issues in:

  • Trustworthiness in autonomous vehicles.
  • Qualifying risks from cyberattacks in shipbuilding and repair supply networks.
  • Assessment and diagnostics for federated AI algorithms in cyber physical systems.
  • Impacts of cybercrime on industry and citizens.
  • Developing a smart city virtual lab to support cyber physical systems experiential learning.

Researchers from ODU will team with peers at the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University. The William & Mary-led team will work with researchers from U.Va.

"By bringing together researchers from multiple universities and different fields of study, we are increasing our research potential, which can lead to cybersecurity innovations and potential commercialization of products or cybersecurity services," said John Costanzo, COVA CCI administrative officer.

A project led by Rafael Diaz, research associate professor at ODU's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC), will develop an artificial intelligence framework that enables characterizing and monitoring shipbuilding supply networks and determining ripple effects from disruptions caused by cyberattacks.

Diaz said the use of digital platforms in defense shipbuilding supply networks "increases operational complexity and requires reliable communication and coordination to regulate this information exchange."

Rui Ning, research assistant professor in the Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research at ODU, will work with Jiang Li and Chunsheng Xin, professors in ODU's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, as well as researchers from Virginia Tech.

Their project will lead to enabling technologies for secure and robust Federated A systems, accelerating their development, and broadening their adoption in various application domains, especially the transportation, defense and maritime sectors.

Ning described the potential impact of compromised Federated AI in cyber physical systems as, "catastrophic or even life-threatening for security-essential and safety-critical cyber physical systems in transportation or defense."

Murat Kuzlu, assistant professor of engineering technology in the Batten College of Engineering and Technology, will work with Vukica Jovanovic, associate professor of engineering technology, and researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University to develop a smart city lab environment, called VirtualLab@OpenCity, which engages researchers, students and companies with smart city challenges, such as automation, data analysis, service reliability and sustainability.

"The project team believes that VirtualLab@OpenCity will have significant commercialization and economic impacts as well as contribute to academia-industry collaboration by providing industry partners an opportunity to apply their knowledge to smart city challenges," Kuzlu said.

Randy Gainey, professor in the Department of Sociology & Criminal Justice, will work with Tancy Vandecar-Burdin, associate director of ODU's Social Science Research Center, and with researchers from VCU and Virginia Tech on a project will gather and analyze data on cybercrime victimization experienced by residents and businesses across the Virginia. The project focuses on Virginia as a unique intersection of cyber physical systems with its large workforce in the maritime, defense and transportation sectors, combined with an educated and mobile workforce, making it a targeted area compared to many other states.

"This grant will facilitate first-time collaborations between three CCI nodes (coastal node with ODU, central node with VCU and southwest node with VT), providing information critical to all four nodes in the commonwealth," Gainey said.

"This will be the first large-scale cybercrime survey in the commonwealth and the results will be compared to national surveys to see where Virginia stands in terms of criminal victimization as well as cybersecurity practices and vulnerabilities."

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