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Ph.D. student helps develop security frameworks to stop hackers from accessing smart devices

Ph.D. student helps develop security frameworks to stop hackers from accessing smart devices

July 24, 2020 at 3:14pm

We are living in the era of Internet of Things (IoT).

It seems like every day a new smart device enters the consumer market. And each new device or update brings with it the question of security. Especially, the features we use most in our day-to-day lives. 

This is the focus of Amit Kumar Sikder's Ph.D. dissertation. 

“Modern smart devices—such as fingerprint readers and voice memos on your smartphones—come with high-precision sensors. These sensors increase the functionalities of the devices and improve our lifestyle,” says the School of Electrical, Computer and Enterprise Engineering doctoral candidate. “Attackers, though, can easily target these sensors to manipulate smart devices and leak sensitive user information, record our conversation and location—even install malware in the system.” 

Sikder is working on a project titled “Securing sensory side-channel in smart devices” with his advisor, Selcuk Uluagac. Uluagac, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and principal investigator on the project, began the work in 2013. Sikder joined the team in 2015 when he arrived at FIU. Since then, he has served as the main researcher alongside his advisor.

“This project introduces sensor-based threats to the community, where it has not been thought of before,” said Sikder. “We have developed several security frameworks that can detect sensor-based threats in smartphones, smartwatches and smart home/office devices.”

For his work, Sikder recently received a Graduate Student Provost Award for “Outstanding Creative Project.” The Provost Awards celebrate FIU’s graduate students and faculty during Graduate Student Appreciation Week. 

“As the United States is one of the largest markets for smart devices, this work poses great significance in terms of security and privacy. The developed security mechanisms can be used in future studies and modified to apply in different application domains such as smart health care, unmanned flying vehicles, etc.,” Sikder says.

This work is an example of university-wide and interuniversity collaboration. Members from the Cyber-Physical System Security Lab (CSL) at FIU have also worked on the project.

“Over the years, we have also had some fruitful collaborations with several other research groups from different universities in the U.S., including Penn State University and Northeastern University,” adds Sikder.

The smart-sensor project is funded by a $496,000 CAREER grant awarded to Uluagac by the National Science Foundation.

The CAREER grant is one of the highest awards given to a faculty member who exemplifies the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research.

The team's work has been recognized by local and national news sources. And the research has produced 14 conference and journal papers, five potential patents and one awarded patent.