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Southampton links with Singapore to address cyber threats

Published: 
21 December 2015
Cybersecurity solutions
The project will develop cybersecurity solutions for smart traffic control systems.

The University is to work closely with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore to develop cybersecurity solutions for smart traffic control systems.

The project is one of six new joint research collaborations announced between UK and Singapore-based researchers to develop new solutions that will enhance the resilience of systems and infrastructure to cyber attacks. The UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Singapore’s National Research Foundation will jointly fund the projects worth £2.4 million ($5.1 million) over the next three years.

Led by Professor Nick Jennings, the University of Southampton’s Regius Professor of Computer Science and Head of Electronics and Computer Science, the project will study human-agent collectives (HAC), in which humans work in partnership with highly interconnected computational components. For example, sensors in mobile devices that collect and analyse information to give the ‘bigger picture’ of an emergency situation as it develops.

The study will also use game theory to discover and analyse major attack scenarios and focus on resource-constrained online machine learning to develop real-time defence mechanisms.

“With the increasing popularity of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, there is a higher demand to make these systems more secure, in order to gain trust and acceptance from the wider communities,” said project co-ordinator Dr Long Tran-Thanh, Lecturer in Electronics and Computer Science at Southampton. “As such, the success of our project would be a proof of concept that our cyber security solution could be efficiently applied to IoT systems. This would bring us one step closer to the realisation of smart societies, where secure IoT plays an essential role.

“As the traffic network is one of the key national strategic infrastructures, making it secure from possible attacks without creating major disturbances within its normal everyday usage would be crucial,” Dr Tran-Thanh continued. “Given this, the success of our project would provide the first efficient solution to this problem, from which the nation would significantly benefit.

“We are quite confident that this project will be successful and will provide a strong impact to both the cyber security and the IoT communities, respectively,” Dr Tran-Thanh continued. “In particular, our partners, Assistant Professors Bo An and Mo Li from the School of Computer Engineering at NTU, will add their excellent knowledge in security game theory and Internet of Things (IoT) hardware systems, respectively, in order to complement our expertise in machine learning and HAC systems.”

Assistant Professor Bo An, an expert in artificial intelligence and game theory at NTU, said: “Traffic systems are important infrastructures that have to be protected at the highest security levels, since their high automation and computerisation makes them prime targets for cyber-attacks. A successful cyber-attack by criminals into the traffic system would give them the ability to create chaos, causing heavy traffic on roads, and even to block law enforcement vehicles and to create escape routes.

“Our novel idea in this research project, is to combine game theory and machine learning so that we can detect suspicious behaviour and activity in advance, and to develop mechanisms that could mitigate cyber-attacks on smart traffic systems. In short – we aim to have smart traffic systems in future that will know when and how it is being hacked, adapt to these attacks, and obstruct the hackers every step of the way.”

Southampton is leading the national agenda to protect against cyber threats as one of 13 Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security Research in the UK. The University was awarded ACE-CSR status in November 2013 by GCHQ with a remit to extend knowledge through original research and provide high-quality graduates in the field of cyber security. In November, the University launched a new Cyber Security Academy to help make government, businesses and consumers more resilient to cyber-attack.

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