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Alexander Russell, Qiang Tang and Hong-Sheng Zhou Awarded NSF Grant

The National Science Foundation awarded a $300,000 grant to Professor Alexander Russell for his project “SaTC: CORE: Medium: Collaborative: Theory and Practice of Cryptosystems Secure against Subversion”. The grant is a collaborative effort with 2 CSE alumni; Dr. Qiang Tang, an Assistant Professor at New Jersey Institute of Technology and Dr. Hong-Sheng Zhou, an Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. The total budget for the grant is $1.2 million. The discipline of cryptography provides the basic digital tools used across the globe to ensure data privacy and authenticity. With the broad deployment of these tools–often invisibly embedded in commercial software or hardware–an unconventional but devastating breed of cyberattacks have emerged. These attacks involve deploying a cleverly subverted version of a cryptographic tool that appears to function normally, but in fact deliberately reduces security in a covert way that is known only to the subverting party. Such an attack can be carried out by the author of a software package, the manufacturer of a hardware device, or a third party who has contrived to interfere with the deployed product. Recent high-profile incidents of this kind have highlighted the threat associated with these attacks. This project is a comprehensive study of security in this setting, including development of formal models that permit rigorous reasoning about security, design and analysis of new cryptographic tools that resist subversion, and explicit recommendations for hardening the existing cryptographic tools in widespread use.