IU researchers awarded NSF grants for cybersecurity projects – Inside INdiana Business – Inside INdiana Business

The Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering on the IU Bloomington campus. (photo courtesy of James Brosher, Indiana University)

Researchers from Indiana University are working on two new cybersecurity projects they say will ensure trustworthy cloud computing, as well as increase computing privacy for marginalized and vulnerable populations. The projects were recently awarded multi-million-dollar grants by the National Science Foundation as part of its Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program.

The first project involves a multi-institution effort to understand how to protect data shared across distributed computing systems such as cloud computing environments. The NSF awarded a total of $9 million for the project, $3 million of which will go directly to IU.

Led by IU, the project will establish the Center for Distributed Confidential Computing in collaboration with researchers from Purdue University, Penn State, Carnegie Mellon University, The Ohio State University, Spelman College, Duke University and Yale University. IU says the researchers will work to provide solutions for data in use, such as training machine-learning models on private data across cloud and edge systems.

“Data-in-use protection is considered to be a holy grail of data protection, since even encrypted data needs to be decrypted before it can be analyzed, so there is a risk that the data could be exposed at that point in time,” said XiaoFeng Wang, principal investigator on the project and professor of computer science, engineering and informatics at IU. “Our project will lay the technological foundations for practical data-in-use protection across today and tomorrow’s cloud and edge systems. This effort is critical for maintaining U.S. leadership in AI and data science, which heavily relies on data-in-use protection.”

IU says the second project, which also involves researchers from the University of Florida and the University of Washington, will address computer privacy and security issues within marginalized populations. The research team has been awarded a $7.5 million grant from the NSF for the project, which will help researchers improve systems for vulnerable populations and the general population.

“Designers often have assumptions about who they are designing for — a so-called ‘default persona,’ which are essentially stereotypes about who the ‘typical’ user is,” Hugenberg said. “This default persona often includes the majority population or privileged individuals, and thus can often overlook the needs and capabilities of marginalized and vulnerable users.”

Ultimately, IU says the researchers plan to work with industry and government leaders to integrate their findings into products used by everyone, such as the next generation of augmented reality technologies.

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