NAU hosts industry and military partners to discuss multimillion-dollar cybersecurity project

Bertrand Cambou

Dozens of industry and military partners came to NAU in February to discuss a multimillion-dollar cybersecurity project headed by professor Bertrand Cambou.

Cambou, a professor of nanotechnology and cybersecurity in the School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems, is the principal investigator on a grant from the U.S. Air Force to develop nanotechnology solutions to cyberattacks and cyber warfare. SICCS professor Paul Flikkema is the PI on a grant aimed at developing hardware for computer diversity. Together, the grants total $6.3 million and include a dozen researchers and students at NAU.

Because of the complexity and constantly changing nature of cybersecurity and computing diversity issues, the Department of Defense brought in additional partners to aid in the transfer of technologies, which is always a huge task. That group met at NAU on Feb. 25 to seek clarity on the critical tasks and objectives of the work.

“Not only are these complicated issues, but the work of about 12 faculty members at NAU has to be coordinated with seven different organizations,” Cambou said. “Therefore, we are implementing a process to drive the program management of the entire program.”

Partners from the Air Force Research Lab’s Information Directorate, space technology development and material research departments; the Office of Naval Research; Sandia National Laboratory; Lockheed Martin; and Crossbar Inc. are part of this project, which has two major goals:

  • to develop key technology modules that will enable new forms of protection across the landscape of cybersecurity needs, including physical unclonable functions, cryptography, blockchain and key distribution
  • to develop and combine several new technologies, including innovations in microelectronics and the design of computer hardware, to improve the ability of computers to fend off cyberattacks

AFRL and NAU are national leaders in this area of research, said Don Telesca, chief of the AFRL High Performance Systems Branch and a partner in this research. This workshop is important because the collaboration among academic, industry and government agencies ensures the right pipeline of expertise, from basic research to technology transition, is covered.

“Hackers and cyber-criminals continuously probe and attack legacy infrastructure that was not designed to combat the ever-evolving complex assaults,” Telesca said. “With the existing infrastructure continuing to be weak to cyberattacks, it is time to consider radical architectural and infrastructural changes intended to disrupt the status quo and support a healthier cybersecurity ecosystem through computational diversity.”

“We are excited and honored that AFRL recognizes our faculty’s innovative approach in identifying nontraditional solutions to the increasing danger of cyberattacks and cyber warfare,” President Rita Cheng said as she welcomed the group. “The impact of this work reaches all corners of modern life, helping to protect factories, power plants, transportation systems, drones, personal medical devices and much more.”