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Cybersecurity Research and Computing Education at the University of Alabama in Huntsville

April 18 @ 11:00 am - 12:30 pm

Dr. Letha Etzkorn and Dr. Rhonda Gaede, both Professors at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, will be speaking about grants received from the National Security Agency (NSA) for Cybersecurity research. They will also be speaking about a new Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Cybersecurity. 

The first NSA grant, Dielectric: Lightweight Virtualization for Insulating Cyber Physical and Cloud Applications, they determined various security improvements that can be added both to a Cloud and to an embedded system.  They examined ways to improve visibility in communication between virtual machines on the same computer, which has previously been difficult to monitor.  They were able to provide a security-hardened version of the Xen hypervisor by adding intrusion detection systems (IDS) inside the Xen hypervisor. They showed that this kind of IDS can be applied to a cloud and to an embedded system without greatly affecting efficiency.  They further showed that these kinds of IDS can be moved into FPGAs for both cloud and embedded system operation, which provides an additional level of security.

The second NSA grant, Hypervisor Secured OpenPLC(capacity building within Cybersecurity Education for U.S. Army Reservists, T. Morris (PI)), they examined OpenPLC, an open source Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) that was developed by a UAH Ph.D. student (Thiago Alves).  OpenPLC allows mainstream general purpose embedded computing platforms such as ODroid or Raspberry Pi to be used as PLCs.  This involved examining the impact of hypervisor virtualization on a platform for providing secure services to OpenPLC.   The introduction of a hypervisor into an Industrial Control System (ICS) provides isolation between user applications since each application may execute within its own VM.  To determine if it is reasonable for soft real time control systems (power distribution systems, chemical plants) to be developed as applications sitting on top of a hypervisor, we did performance measurements of an ODroid C2 running OpenPLC. (Soft real time means that there is a deadline but missing it would not be critical.)

The third NSA grant, Hands-on Learning Modules for Infusion of Cybersecurity Education Throughout Computing Curriculum, they are developing hands-on cybersecurity modules, to be made available online to other instructors.  These modules will allow cybersecurity content in courses (especially required courses) where the major focus is not cybersecurity.  For undergraduate early programming courses: file integrity hashes, introduction to debuggers.  For embedded systems courses: embedded systems threat modules, securing embedded systems, vulnerabilities in embedded systems. For hardware/software co-design courses:  hardware-based security and secure processors.  For Software engineering courses: static analysis and dynamic analysis. For operating systems and virtualization courses:  virtualization, two factor authentications, Security Enhanced Linux (SELinux), Kali Linux. For Networking courses:  software defined networks, intrusion detection. For cloud courses: software defined networks in the cloud.  Some modules apply at graduate levels, some at undergraduate levels.

Speaker(s): Dr. Etzkorn, Dr. Gaede

Room: Suite 415
1525 Perimeter Parkway
Huntsville, Alabama


April 18
11:00 am - 12:30 pm
More Information and Registration




City: Huntsville