Computer science professor Kelly Shaw awarded grant for research related to correctness and security of internet-enabled devices

October 9, 2017

Kelly Shaw From consumer products like thermostats and locks found in many homes today to commercial devices to monitor factories or electricity distribution systems, technology interconnects many everyday objects with internet-enabled computing systems, allowing them to send and receive data.

University of Richmond computer science professor Kelly Shaw wants to make sure that data, which is collected, stored and analyzed, is verifiable and secure.

Shaw was recently awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation for her collaborative research project, “CPS: Small: Collaborative Research: Towards Secure, Privacy-Preserving, Verifiable Cyberphysical Systems.”

“Cyberphysical and Internet-of-Things (CPS/IoT) systems include physical devices that are connected to the internet in some way. They can be controlled remotely via commands sent over the internet and often are sensing, collecting and acting on data from their environments,” said Shaw. “Example IoT devices include things most of us interact with every day, such as toys, medical devices, smart locks and cameras.”

Both consumer-facing and industrial systems of this nature are already responsible for a wide range of safety-critical functions with significant security implications. For example, devices may be deployed for safety purposes in transportation systems, sensing the current environment and alerting operators to potential concerns. In the home, correct functioning of smart locks provides the safety guarantees of a locked door.

“It’s imperative these systems are correct since any security shortcomings have implications both for device users themselves, and more broadly across the internet, due to malware attacks hosted by these devices,” Shaw explained.

Shaw’s project has two main components to tackle the problem of verifying the correctness and security of CPS devices.

First her team will work to develop verification techniques that can be implemented at the time of design, prior to deployment. Second they will also create run-time verification techniques for systems while in use. 

“Our research will focus on these products from start to finish,” Shaw said. “We believe this suite of verification tools and hardware support modules can be broadly adopted across the space for dramatic improvements in the trustworthiness of systems and devices.”

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This National Science Foundation Collaborative Research Award will support this project through a three-year grant of $63,553. Shaw is collaborating with Margaret Martonosi, a professor of computer science at Princeton University. The project includes components to engage undergraduate students in research and to improve the diversity of the computing workforce.