NSERC awards Concordia’s Gina Cody School $1.1M to develop autonomous security monitoring for the Internet of Things

Adoption of autonomous Internet of Things (IoT) equipment such as drones, vehicles and smart home devices is on the rise. Coupled with the increasing power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, our lives are changing in notable ways.

But today’s large-scale IoT systems suffer from various implementation flaws and misconfigurations, and adversaries frequently exploit those vulnerabilities to craft sophisticated and powerful cyberattacks.

To protect against these threats, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has awarded $1,147,500 toward Concordia research geared at developing autonomous security monitoring for IoT devices. The funding will be delivered over a five-year period.

“AI is booming, which is good news for cybersecurity experts but also attackers,” says the research project’s principal investigator, Suryadipta Majumdar. The associate professor works out of the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science’s Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering.

“We are examining how, even in the absence of a human operator, we can make things better if these devices are failing, whether intentionally or unintentionally. That’s why we wanted to build a security monitoring solution for this kind of autonomous or smart IT environment,” Majumdar explains.

The team hopes to produce an autonomous security solution that will reduce human intervention and fit with the design of IoT devices.

The project is in partnership with Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) and cybersecurity specialists Sunphinx Inc. and is the result of years of work on behalf of its main researcher.

“We started envisioning this project back in 2020,” Majumdar says.

“And now, thanks to the efforts of the Concordia Information Security Research Lab in the Security Research Centre, with the valuable contributions of co-principal investigator Paria Shirani and partners, as well as the support of the Gina Cody School and Dean Mourad Debbabi, we received the funding.”

‘Addressing real-life challenges with far-reaching impacts’

Emad Shihab, the Gina Cody School’s associate dean of research and innovation, recognizes the broader significance of the project. “This research exemplifies our commitment to addressing real-life challenges with far-reaching impacts, both locally and globally,” Shihab says.

“It showcases our dedication to pioneering solutions that not only advance the field of cybersecurity but also protect and enhance the daily lives of individuals and communities around the world.”

In addition to Majumdar, the research is being conducted by co-principal investigator Paria Shirani, PhD 21, assistant professor at the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Ottawa, and their collaborator Anandamayee Majumdar, assistant professor in the College of Science and Engineering at San Francisco State University in California.  

Shirani is no stranger to Concordia, as she earned her PhD in information systems engineering from the university in 2021 under the supervision Mourad Debbabi and Lingyu Wang, professor at the Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering. Concordia graduate students Armin Mansouri, Mahdieh Ghorbanian, Piyush Adhikari and Sofya Smolyakova, are also part of the research team.

Both DRDC and Sunphinx are interested in advancing the results of this project in Canada. The DRDC wants to leverage the output by providing trusted advice on the secure use of IoT and technology for national defence.

The group also intends it to inform potential acquisitions on IT technology, their related security threats and counter measures.

Sunphinx has several concrete plans to realize the proposed solution from this project, not only to help end users but also municipalities, provinces and businesses. The team is already in discussion with a non-profit organization supported by the Government of Quebec that helps cities in the deployment of innovative solutions.

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Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering.