NSA Values the Results of Our Work
Our research in cyber security has delivered advances in such areas as adaptive cyber defense, automated security response, cyber-situation awareness, and configuration analytics and automation. Our breakthroughs in proactive security engineering earned Mason and the Center for Secure Information Systems recognition by the National Security Agency as a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education, and a Center of Excellence in Information Assurance Research.
Bitcoin and user privacy
The digital currency "Bitcoin" is a payment option for consumers in some online transactions, but one that does not always offer sufficient user privacy. Foteini Baldimtsi, an associate professor in Mason's computer science department, and researchers at Boston University and North Carolina State University have been working to change that via an online payment hub called TumbleBit—a tool they now think will also solve a second problem.
TumbleBit improves bitcoin users' privacy by adding a third party—called a tumbler—to transactions. By doing so, TumbleBit makes it more difficult for those outside the transaction to determine which two parties are involved.
It also increases the number of transactions per second bitcoin can support.
"If you look at, if you check the numbers of the Visa and MasterCard network, what's the upward bound, the bandwidth of how many transactions they can support, you will see that they have a pretty large upper bound. So, they can support maybe 30-to-40000 transactions per second in the whole world," Baldimtsi said.
By comparison, bitcoin currently only supports five to seven transactions per second.
TumbleBit can help increase the number of transactions bitcoin can support by moving some transactions off the bitcoin blockchain—the public record of all bitcoin transactions—so that they happen through TumbleBit's tumbler, through a third party, Baldimtsi said.
The researchers would be happy if they could reach a speed of "a couple thousand transactions per second," Baldimtsi said, and added that she thinks they will achieve that goal.
"[T]he first step of the project however, the first goal we're trying to attain is anonymity, of course," she said.
Researcher Profile: Duminda Wijesekera, Secure Cognitive Radio Networks
Duminda Wijesekera is a visiting research scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and leads the Laboratory of Radio and RADAR Engineering, a collaboration between academia, industry and government agencies and is a co-director of the Center for Assured Research at Mason.
His current research addresses three main areas:
- The security and safety of cyber-physical systems. Research in this area includes safety and security of trains, aircraft, ships, and automobiles. The goal of this research is to create secure cognitive radio networks that ensure mandated safety guarantees.
- His research in electronic support for medical procedures includes formulating, validating and verification of the safety of medical workflows (now called Careflows), privacy and security medical data, including the protection of personal health identifiers.
- Digital forensics research includes creating potential scenarios from evidence and creating frameworks for argumentations, error management of forensic data and add odds ratio between different scenarios that fit the evidence.
Prior to joining Mason, he worked as a Senior Systems and Software Engineer at Honeywell's Military Avionics and Space Systems divisions.
He teaches classes in such subjects as Information Security Theory and serves as a disertation advisor for PhD students.
Departments Active in Cyber Security Research
Researchers in the Department of Computer Science design, implement, and maintain computer software systems used in almost all other professions. Students majoring in computer science will become well grounded in technologies needed for the acquisition, representation, storage, transmission, transformation, and use of information in digital form and must be capable of working closely with members of other professions associated with computing.
Researchers in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department work on the foundations on which computer engineering and computer science rest. Electrical engineers design and build the equipment that most of us take for granted—computers, cell phones, televisions, rockets, satellites, communications and computer networks, mobile radios, environmental control systems, robots, weapons, and medical devices. With a proud history as one of the school’s founding departments, ECE also the distinction of being closely allied with the recently established Department of Bioengineering.
The Department of Information Sciences and Technology prepares students to address one of the greatest challenges facing society – how to derive actionable insights from the vast reservoirs of information and data available by using innovative technologies and techniques.
Researchers in the Department of Statisics focus on statistical problems arising in privacy and security analytics. They collaborate with scientists to identify sources of risk and statistical methods to measure and mitigate risk in real-time environments. The work involves integrating aspects of regularity guidelines with novel statistical methods in ultra-high dimensions to develop next-generation privacy and security guidelines.
Research Centers Active in Cyber Security Studies
CARE's multidisciplinary approach to cybersecurity encompasses the fields of technology, policy, business and leadership. Through partnerships with government and private industry, our innovative research is translated into practices and policies used in real-word settings. Our research includes security for distributed systems, mobile apps/devices, industrial control systems, and new technologies such as networked medical devices, as well as policies development for securing critical infrastructure and guidance for cybersecurity leadership/governance.
The goal of the Center for Configuration Analytics and Automation (CCAA) is to build the critical mass of inter-disciplinary academic researchers and industry partners for addressing the current and future challenges of configuration analytics and automation to improve service assurability, security and resiliency of enterprise IT systems, cloud/SDN data centers, and cyber-physical systems by applying innovative analytics and automation.
Mason is the nation's first and only civilian university-based entity offering a comprehensive academic and research program in C4I and Cyber Performs research in sensing and fusion, C3 architectures, communications and signal processing, command support and intelligent systems, modeling and simulation, and distributed education and training. Provides a bridge between Volgenau faculty expertise and the needs of government/defense/intelligence information technology users. Conducts active outreach programs to government and industry.
The Center for Secure Information Systems was created to provide a dedicated environment to encourage the development of expertise in both the theoretical and applied aspects of information systems security. Its scope encompasses information secrecy, integrity, and availability problems in military, civil, and commercial sectors.