The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) has received a $229,000 one year grant from the National Security Agency (NSA) to develop security for a "safer" Internet of Things (IoT).
Although the official reason for the grant from the often controversial U.S. Intelligence agency is to create a lightweight and secure architecture for IoT systems such as smart meters and inter-enabled cars, security experts believe there may be a more sinister reason. They say given the NSA's history of intercepting the supply chain of routers to plant backdoor security bugs, one could suspect the grant to UAH may be more for wanting to learn how to breach IoT devices rather than secure them.
Experts say that up to now little thought has been given to security of loT systems at the design phase, giving rise to security breaches from weak crypto and authentication systems, as well as almost obvious built-in web console flaws. This has resulting in, among other things, cars being remotely hacked and home routers being left vulnerable.
UAH's computer science department faculty member Dr Etzkorn said experts in automotive systems and embedded systems will work together on the project, hopefully resulting in security applications for cloud-based systems as well. He said the research phase of the project will bring together multiple disciplines from the electrical and computing department and the computer science department, giving expertise in embedded systems, cyber security, hardware-software co-design, automotive systems and secure processing.
"With the Internet of Things, one expects various 'things' – that is, embedded systems – to connect to the cloud. We are examining security methodologies that can apply both at the embedded systems level and the cloud level," said Etzkorn
Two graduate student researchers will assist Etzkorn along with three full time faculty from UAH's electrical and computer engineering department, and two faculty members from its computer science department.
The project will begin next month and run through to the summer of 2016.