Six grants were awarded to Virginia Tech faculty-led research teams as part of the Commonwealth Cyber Initiatve Cybersecurity Research Collaboration Program to advance the field in research areas such as 5G, artificial intelligence, and automated systems, paving the way for additional extramural funding. Additionally, two Virginia Tech faculty-led projects received grants as part of the CCI Building Bridges Arts and Design Collaboration Program, which engages the community of artists and researchers in arts and design to reimagine and depict the results of cybersecurity research either for scientific or creative arts purposes.

“Virginia Tech is an influential research university and strives to increase its research initiatives every year,” said Gretchen Matthews, director of the Southwest Virginia Node and professor in the department of mathematics in the College of Science at Virginia Tech. “Having the Southwest Virginia Node so well represented in this wave of funding from the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative brings us closer to that goal.”

“These artists bring new perspectives into cybersecurity research, for example how the study of dance movements can help in artificial intelligence-based privacy preservation in surveillance systems,” said Luiz DaSilva, executive director of CCI. “They also illuminate issues that we face every day, like how our data isn't truly undeleted from our smartphones. I'm looking forward to watching how these projects evolve and what they teach us.”

Twenty-seven cybersecurity research collaboration grants funded cyber research initiatives across Virginia, totaling more than $4 million.

CCI has four regional nodes and one hub dedicated to specific geographic areas of Virginia along with different research disciplines. Based at Virginia Tech, the CCI Hub is the core of the network coordinating programs, supporting the entire network, and housing research capabilities that provide a platform for research and innovation growth across the network. Virginia Tech leads the Southwest Virginia Node with an emphasis on cybersecurity related to wireless communications and application domains, such as transportation, power systems, manufacturing, autonomous vehicles, and agriculture; cybersecurity and emerging technologies, such as quantum computing; and cryptography. 

The following Virginia Tech projects were awarded funding:

C3-5GPG: Cybersecure Communications and Control for 5G-enabled Power Grid

Ali Mehrizi-Sani, associate professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering

This project aims to create a cybersecure distributed control, protection, and monitoring infrastructure for distributed energy resources within a microgrid power system.

Enhancing the Privacy and Reliability of Massive-scale Bluetooth Low Energy Contact Tracing

Daphne Yao, professor of computer science in the College of Engineering

Yao and her team will examine and harden the security, privacy, and reliability of contact tracing mobile apps, with a focus on Virginia’s COVIDWISE contact tracing app. The team aims to use their experience in mobile and network security to help address the early infection detection challenge in this unprecedented global pandemic and contribute to the commonwealth’s economic recovery.

Evaluation of Lattice-Based Candidates in the NIST Post-quantum Cryptography Standardization Process in Terms of Security and Performance in Hardware

Travis Morrison, assistant professor of mathematics in the College of Science

The team will be able to further Round 3 of The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s process to standardize one or more public-key cryptosystems which are secure even against an adversary with a quantum computer.

Open Radio Access Network Compliant User Driven RAN Resource Management System for Next-generation Mobile and C-V2X Communications

Vijay Shah, research assistant professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering

Shah, who is also a CCI faculty member, will work to architect an open radio access network compliant user-driven radio access network resource management system that dynamically predicts network progression and conducts network design strategies and auto-deployment within the network periodically through temporal data mining of the user traffic and mobility behaviors. 

Sensor Degradation Detection Algorithm for Automated Driving Systems

Michele Chaka, director of the Division of Data and Analytics and interim director for the Center for Public Policy, Partnerships, and Outreach at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute

This project will develop a sensor degradation detection algorithm for automated driving systems to tackle existing safety issues, such as leading a vehicle off the road or causing the vehicle to suddenly stop in the middle of an intersection.

SmallSat Cybersecurity and Resiliency

Jonathan Black, director of the Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology’s Aerospace and Ocean Systems Laboratory

Black’s project aims to address the challenging and increasingly important issue of smallsat cybersecurity. His team will use CCI testbeds to develop best practices for smallsat cybersecurity, execute cyber risk assessments, and analyze resiliency on a lab-based evolvable flatsat.

A Self-calibrating, Network-based, Portable High-density Loudspeaker Array for Evaluation of Cybersecurity Data and Artistic Expression

Tanner Upthegrove, media engineer for the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology

Upthegrove’s team will work to reimagine and depict the results of cybersecurity research through the innate human ability to detect auditory patterns, both temporally and spatially.

Exploring AI and 5G Capabilities for Enabling Online, Real-time Networked Music Collaboration

Tanner Upthegrove, media engineer for the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology

Upthegrove will explore the potential of utilizing novel 5G wireless, artificial intelligence, and power compute capability in user devices in realizing online real-time networked music collaboration, which enables musicians in different locations to perform as if they were in the same room.

— Written by Aubrey Medina