University researchers receive grants from the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative for cyber and arts and design research


Six research projects led by George Mason University (Mason) faculty and one research project led by James Madison University (JMU) faculty received funding from the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) that will help further the expansion of autonomous systems, AI, 5G applications, and new approaches to security.

“These projects promise to impact the security of our infrastructure as well as the manufacturing enterprise and leverage expertise in AI, policy and economics to support security of our regional ecosystem. Our multidisciplinary, multi-institutional approach to these challenges will accelerate new defenses and strategies," said Liza Wilson Durant, CCI Northern Virginia Node Director.

Mason faculty also received funding as part of the CCI Building Bridges Arts and Design Collaboration Program that aims to engage the Virginia community of cyber researchers in arts and design to reimagine and depict the results of cybersecurity research either for scientific or creative arts purposes. 

"It is exciting to fund projects which collide art and design with engineering and computing,” said Durant, associate dean for strategic initiatives and community engagement at Mason. “The artists' perspective will surely broaden our understanding of the data and inspire us to be more creative and shift perspective as we seek solutions to our technical challenges."

"The portfolio of research initiatives funded in the Northern Virginia Node brings together the unique expertise of multiple nodes across the commonwealth to advance the goals of the CCI Northern Virginia Node's strategic plan,” said Luiz DaSilva, CCI executive director.

About the Projects

Duminda Wijesekera, professor of computer science at Mason will lead ‘5GEM: 5G MEC-Enhanced C-V2X for Intersection Management’ with CCI’s funding, with the primary goal of designing, prototyping, and performing in-field experimental runs of a 5G multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) server for Intersection management. Wijesekera is also a faculty member of CCI.

In project, ‘Collective and Collaborative Defense for Virginia Regional Cyber Ecosystems’, project lead J.P. Auffret, associate director for the Center for Assurance Research and Engineering (CARE) at Mason, aims to adapt a fusion center concept to regional collective and collaborative defense with Regional Cyber Centers by developing innovative strategic, business, legal, policy, and operational constructs that are tailorable for a region’s cyber ecosystem.

‘Enhancing 5G Wireless Network Security with Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces’ with project lead Kai Zeng, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Mason and CCI faculty member, will attempt to build theoretical foundations and develop novel techniques for RIS-enhanced 5G wireless security that fully harvest the degrees of freedom provided by RISs with the funding from CCI.

Songqing Chen, computer science professor at MASON, will build an RSA-DC, a framework that builds robust and self-adaptive defense capability for existing cyber systems, in his team’s project, ‘RSA-DC: Building Robust and Self-Adaptive Defense Capability in Cyber Systems.’

‘Spatiotemporal G-code Modeling for Additive Manufacturing Security’ is a project led by Rob Prins, professor in the Department of Engineering at JMU. The project proposed two thrusts: The first thrust will focus on the development of several cyberattack simulations applicable to 3-D printers (including generation of internal voids and manipulation of process temperatures). The second thrust will focus on G-code modeling to predict printer behavior.

Researchers involved in ‘User-Centric Privacy Controls for Smart Home Devices’ aims to systematically characterize privacy concerns from end-users’ perspectives, formalizing privacy risks in a threat model for smart home devices. The project lead is Vivian Motti, assistant professor in the Department of Information Sciences and Technology at Mason.

Michael McDermott, assistant professor in the School of Art at Mason, leads the project, ‘UNDELETED’. UNDELETED is focused on creating a public multimedia gallery exhibition of large photographic prints, showing some identifiable features but otherwise incomplete.

About the CCI

CCI has four regional nodes dedicated to specific geographic areas of Virginia along with different research disciplines. Mason leads the Northern Virginia Node with an emphasis on cybersecurity in national defense, transportation, electric/power distribution, and manufacturing sectors, as well as the impact of human behavior on cybersecurity and resilience of cyber systems to human behavior. In this wave of funding, CCI funded 27 research proposals for more than $4 million to faculty researchers from universities across Virginia, as part of its vision to establish Virginia as a global leader in cybersecurity research and serve as a catalyst for the Commonwealth’s long-term economic leadership in this sector.