Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Georgia State Professor Studies New Approach to Cyber Defense

Georgia State University’s Raheem Beyah is exploring innovative ways to keep computer networks secure from potential attackers.

The assistant professor of computer science has received a five-year, $400,000 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program grant from the National Science Foundation to explore methods to better detect cyber activity that could do great harm to individuals, organizations, businesses and government.

There are two ways to approach intrusion detection — either on the computers themselves, such as antivirus and firewall software, or having a detection program on a network that observes intrusions.

Both have their benefits, but there are detractions for each method.

“The software itself on a computer can damage the device, or it can open up new avenues for attackers to access the system,” Beyah explained. “If you have intrusion detection on a network, this is mitigated, but it does not give you the same level of detail about intrusions compared with methods residing on the host.”

Attempting to find the intrusion could be as harmful as the intrusion itself, a situation Beyah compares to a biopsy in cancer patients.

“It would be really nice if they could use a non-intrusive tool to tell whether you have cancer without having to cut into the body,” he said.

“My goal is to do something to bridge between the two detection methods, and to give us the strengths of both while minimizing the weaknesses.”

In addition to security research, Beyah plans to reach out to underrepresented groups in science, mathematics, technology, and engineering subjects — including minorities and females — through a summer academy which will help teach students about computer architecture and networking.

The Acknowledge Academy at the Knowledge Is Power Program West Atlanta Young Scholars (KIPP WAYS) Academy, a preparatory charter school of the Atlanta Public Schools will give students hands-on experience in these abstract subjects by using popular electronics.

“We hope to use devices like the iPod Touch to let the students break them open to look at the processors and memory,” said Beyah, who is on the board of directors of KIPP WAYS.
“Hopefully, they'll learn that there's science behind all of this cool stuff they use.”

Previous Georgia State Computer Science CAREER recipients include assistant professors Yingshu Li and Xiaojun Cao. Li is researching routing problems in sensor networks, while Cao is investigating optical networking.

For more about computer science and research at Georgia State, visit

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