New ASU cybersecurity center to proactively look at protecting data

September 22, 2015

The Internet has dramatically changed our world. We can now perform our jobs, earn a degree, receive mail and more — entirely online. However, as we have become increasingly interconnected, we have also become more vulnerable to data breaches, cyber attacks and unauthorized network access.

Our military, governments, hospitals and financial institutions handle massive amounts of sensitive data, such as Social Security numbers, credit-card accounts, personal medical histories and more. This data is often shared across networks and computers. How do we consistently protect such information, especially when technology is constantly evolving? (From left) Todd Hardy, senior economic development adviser, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development; Stephen Yau, professor, School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering, who set up several information assurance programs in computer science; Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development; Gail-Joon Ahn, director of Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics; Jamie Winterton, director of strategic research initiatives at Global Security Initiative, who leads cybersecurity strategy for the initiative; and Nadya Bliss, director of Global Security Initiative. Download Full Image

To address this question, the Global Security Initiative at Arizona State University has launched the Center for Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics. The center will take a proactive, interdisciplinary approach to the issue of cybersecurity.

Gail-Joon Ahn, an expert in security analytics and big-data-driven security intelligence, will serve as the center’s director. Ahn is a professor in ASU’s School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

The center’s launch event included speakers from law, business and psychology, as well as Sethuraman Panchanathan, senior vice president of ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development (OKED). OKED advances research, entrepreneurship and economic development activities at ASU.

“ASU’s strength in connecting public and private partners for research, education and innovation allows us to effectively address the most pressing global challenges,” said Panchanathan. “The new Center for Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics brings an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to the emerging and constantly changing field of digital security. This positions ASU as the partner of choice for industry and government institutions working to create solutions in the U.S. and around the world.”

Cybersecurity is inherently interdisciplinary, which is why the center has engaged nearly 30 faculty members across eight academic units — from computer science and business to law, psychology and even the English Department.

Cybersecurity research tends to focus on software solutions, but there is a human element to every cyber attack. Researchers at the center will explore the economic, cultural, legal and policy issues surrounding cybersecurity as well as the technological challenges.

“As we are moving toward a very mobile and cyber-dependent society, it is critical to deal with diverse security challenges raised in dynamic and rapidly changing IT-centric environments. We desperately need to pursue a multidisciplinary and comprehensive approach to cope with such challenges,” said Ahn. “In addition, it is imperative to focus on specific areas that can fully leverage ASU's capabilities in the cybersecurity area. This center will help prioritize areas that we should focus on, while expanding current security-related research activities and collaborating with diverse experts at ASU.”

Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics researchers will collaborate with other universities, government agencies and industry partners to advance cybersecurity and digital forensics research.

The center will focus on three pillars — education, research and innovation — to help produce an outstanding workforce in the area of national security; tackle short-term and long-term security challenges via top-notch research expertise and activities; and significantly contribute to economic growth in Arizona and the U.S. by transferring innovative and patented technologies to the marketplace.

“I am thrilled to have the Global Security Initiative’s first center address this challenge, bringing together expertise from across the campus, and connecting to both private and public partners,” said Nadya Bliss, director of the Global Security Initiative. “In this age of interconnectedness and complexity, cybersecurity is at the forefront of our security as a human race.”

The Global Security Initiative is currently sponsoring the CSM Passcode podcast, which focuses on security and privacy in the digital age. The initiative's director, Nadya Bliss, and Jamie Winterton, director of Strategic Research Initiatives for GSI, will be featured in the upcoming podcast, to be released in late September. 

Written by Melissa Pagnozzi

New ASU research on sense of smell could help pinpoint causes of brain diseases

September 22, 2015

Like most animals, we rely on our sense of smell for survival. It’s critical to our health and an important factor in our quality of life.

A reduction in our ability to smell is believed to be a precursor to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s, to name a few. Yet olfaction is poorly understood compared with our other senses. Gaining a better understanding will have a broad impact in biomedicine, agriculture and engineering applications. rendering of brain inside a girl The National Science Foundation has awarded Arizona State University — and three partner institutions — a three-year, $3.6 million grant to study how healthy brains create memories of odors, as well as how they fail when affected by disease. Photo by: Arizona State University Download Full Image

In a new effort to promote transformative research on critical questions about our sense of smell, the National Science Foundation hosted an Ideas Lab called “Cracking the Olfactory Code.” As part of this effort to generate interdisciplinary, innovative collaborations for discovery in the field of olfaction, the National Science Foundation has awarded Arizona State University — and three partner institutions — a three-year, $3.6 million grant to study how healthy brains create memories of odors, as well as how they fail when affected by disease.

ASU professor Brian Smith’s research team will receive $900,000 as part of the study with colleagues from Harvard University, Salk Institute for Biological Studies and California Institute of Technology. This grant is one of three provided nationally.

“The opportunity through the NSF Ideas Lab has allowed us to develop novel, innovative and highly interdisciplinary approaches to advance an understanding of how the brain represents odors,” said Smith, professor and neuroscientist with the ASU School of Life Sciences. “Reaching this understanding will have a broad impact in biomedicine and agriculture, as well as engineering applications.”

The scientists will use honeybees and fruit flies as models to better understand the physical space of odors — how natural odors occur and how an organism must detect them against complex backgrounds. This study would allow researchers an important opportunity to link the physical structure of an odor environment to better understand how the brain works.

Previous studies used synthetic odors to research olfaction, but this team will use natural odors collected from the insects’ environments. This could reveal new information about the neurological circuits behind our sense of smell.

“This exciting, cutting-edge research could provide us with an understanding of neural representations of odor which have never been described before,” Smith said. “This, in turn, could help us understand how brains malfunction when faced with disease.”

The study may also positively impact an effort to engineer devices that could sniff out things such as drugs, bombs or even cancer. 

Sandra Leander

Assistant Director of Media Relations, ASU Knowledge Enterprise