By Sherry DiBari

Five Old Dominion University professors - Hongyi Wu, Chunsheng Xin, Sachin Shetty, Rafael Diaz and Kevin Moberly - are principal investigators for several cybersecurity research projects that were awarded nearly $1 million through the Coastal Virginia Center for Cyber Innovation (COVA CCI).

"We are pleased to receive the funds to support interdisciplinary research aimed at improving the cybersecurity infrastructure in this region," said Austin Agho, provost and vice president for academic affairs at ODU. "This funding allows us to draw upon the expertise of faculty and students to solve problems that affect the daily lives of residents in the coastal Virginia region."

COVA CCI, led by Old Dominion University, is one of four nodes of the larger state-funded Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI). The other nodes are Northern Virginia (George Mason University), Central Virginia (Virginia Commonwealth University) and Southwest Virginia (Virginia Tech).

The projects include researchers from all four nodes and represent various fields of expertise and experience in cybersecurity research.

Funding was provided through CCI Cybersecurity Research Collaboration Grants and CCI Building Bridges Arts and Design Collaboration. The funds were split among six projects. All are led by COVA CCI partner institutions but also include representatives from research institutions across the state.

"These six projects are led by incredible faculty from ODU and William & Mary," said Brian Payne, ODU's vice provost of academic affairs and CCI Coastal Virginia Node director. "What's even better is that researchers that contribute to the six teams come from even more universities in Virginia and non-academic companies. This funding is truly bringing together Virginia's best talent to make impactful discoveries."

"A primary objective of Commonwealth Cyber Initiative and COVA CCI is to bring together researchers from multiple institutions to collaborate on areas of cybersecurity research critical to tomorrow's economy and information security," said John Costanzo, COVA CCI administrative officer. "These projects represent the great value provided by leveraging the expertise found within our state's research institutions."

Wu, director of ODU's School of Cybersecurity, said his project, "Backdoor Detection and Mitigation in Deep Neural Networks," will bring together researchers from ODU and Virginia Tech along with defense industry and Department of Defense collaborators to develop a detection-and-mitigation system.

"Artificial Intelligence is a critical part of modern warfare with its game-changing capability for handling large volumes of data and making collaborative, complex decisions in support of self-control, self-regulation and self-actuation of combat systems," he said.

Shetty, associate professor at ODU's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC), is leading a project called "Secure and Privacy Preserving 5G Network for Connected Vehicles."

The project "will result in a new multi-node CCI capability: a comprehensive vehicular 5G security and privacy-preserving prototype," he said. "When implemented, the prototype will provide a unique research infrastructure attraction for the CCI node members pursuing future opportunities with Department of Transportation and Department of Defense. The benefits for 5G-empowered vehicular network for maritime and transportation industries will have a direct impact on tracking of connected and autonomous vehicles."

Diaz, Advanced Analytics Research lab director and VMASC research associate professor, will lead "Virginia State Investments in Port of Virginia: A Simulation-based Framework for Identifying, Assessing, and Mitigating Systemic Cybersecurity at the Operational Technology Layer."

"We are extending our understanding of cybersecurity in the cyber-physical domain as we digitalize maritime supply-chain operations," he said. "This knowledge will be incorporated into our educational programs to promote critical thinking and education strong leaders in maritime operations, cybersecurity and homeland security."

Xin, professor in ODU's Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research, is the principal investigator for "DeepPOSE: Securing Transportation systems from GPS Spoofing Attacks."

The project proposes a holistic framework that utilizes multimodal sensor data to detect and mitigate GPS spoofing attacks to transportation systems, using Deep Learning technologies and emerging wireless communication techniques.

A team of researchers led by Moberly, associate professor in English at ODU, will tackle a project titled, "Develop a Gamified Mobile Application for Cybersecurity Education and Assessment via a User-Centered Design Process."

Funded through the CCI Building Bridges Arts and Design Collaboration Program, this project will utilizean interdisciplinary group of faculty and industry professionals with expertise in art, communications, cybersecurity, education and video-game design to use video-game design to create a scalable concept for developing cybersecurity literacy.

The team will work with undergraduate and graduate students.

"This game will serve as a proof of concept for a larger, creative framework through which the artistic potentials of games and game design can be leveraged to increase cybersecurity literacy for non-specialist audiences," Moberly said.

Adwait Nadkarni, an assistant professor in the Computer Science Department at the College of William & Mary, was also awarded funding for a project called "A Systematic Evaluation of Smart City Security and Privacy."

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