UW-led research team wins $7.5M MURI grant to defend against advanced cyberattacks

A University of Washington-led research team has won a $7.5 million, five-year Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grant from the Department of Defense to better model and mount defenses against stealthy, continuous computer hacking attacks known as “advanced persistent threats.”

“Unlike conventional viruses, these threats exploit vulnerabilities and persist over a very long time and they’re very difficult to detect,” said principal investigator Radha Poovendran, chair of the UW Department of Electrical Engineering and director of the Network Security Lab, which he founded in 2001. “Right now, there is no good understanding of the interactions in these complex cyberattacks or how to mitigate them.”

The winning proposal was one of 23 MURI awards announced Friday totaling $162 million, which support research by teams of investigators that span more than one traditional science and engineering discipline in order to accelerate research progress. The grants support basic research with significant potential to improve the nation’s security or expand military capabilities.

The UW-led team will develop a new and comprehensive scientific framework to understand advanced persistent threats and mathematically represent adversarial cyber interactions. Using statistical modeling, adaptive game theory, machine learning and control and systems theory, they aim to model the strategic interactions between these stealthy malware attacks and cyber defense mechanisms to combat them.

One challenging characteristic of advanced persistent threats is that they consist of a collection of different types of attacks over time, which means that defense strategies also need to evolve. In addition, many variants may lead to the same composed attack.

-More at Scienmag


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