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News Publication

New SPLICE Paper on Recurring Device Verification

The most common forms of authentication are passwords, potentially used in combination with a second factor such as a hardware token or mobile app (i.e., two-factor authentication). These approaches emphasize a one-time, initial authentication. Recent work has explored how to provide passive, continuous authentication and/or automatic de-authentication by correlating user movements and inputs with actions observed in an application (e.g., a web browser). The issue with indefinite trust goes beyond user authentication; consider devices that pair via Bluetooth.

The increased adoption of IoT devices and reports of inadequacy of their security makes indefinite trust of devices problematic. The reality of ubiquitous connectivity and frequent mobility gives rise to a myriad of opportunities for devices to be compromised. Thus, we argue that one-time, single-factor, device-to-device authentication (i.e., an initial pairing) is not enough, and that there must exist some mechanism to frequently (re-)verify the authenticity of devices and their connections.

In this paper we propose a device-to-device recurring authentication scheme – Verification of Interaction Authenticity (VIA) – that is based on evaluating characteristics of the communications (interactions) between devices. We adapt techniques from wireless traffic analysis and intrusion detection systems to develop behavioral models that capture typical, authentic device interactions (behavior); these models enable recurring verification of device behavior. 

To read more, check out the paper here.

Travis Peters, Timothy J. Pierson, Sougata Sen, José Camacho, and David Kotz. Recurring Verification of Interaction Authenticity Within Bluetooth Networks. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Security and Privacy in Wireless and Mobile Networks (WiSec 2021), pages 192–203. ACM, June 2021. doi:10.1145/3448300.3468287. ©

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News

Morgan State receives $3.1M NSF CyberCorps Scholarship

Morgan State University has been recognized for proposing “innovative approaches to cybersecurity education and professional development that […] will support students [and] increase the vitality of cybersecurity preparedness for the nation.” This recognition includes $3.1 million in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the CyberCorps Scholarship program to provide full scholarships and stipends to students who agree to work in cybersecurity jobs for federal, state, local or tribal governments after graduation.

The CyberCorps Scholarship funding will be used to provide students with a unique educational program in secure embedded systems through the Secure Embedded Systems Scholarship (SES2). The program begins with recruitment, and continues with mentorship and financial support for students pursuing BS, MS, and Ph.D. degrees. SES2 supports students holistically, by leveraging peer and professional mentorship, experimental learning activities, and a comprehensive curriculum in embedded systems.

Congratulations to Morgan State University, the Cybersecurity Assurance and Policy (CAP) Center, and SPLICE PIs Kevin and Michel Kornegay, who will be leading this effort. To learn more, check out NSF’s previous announcement about the CyberCorps Scholarship program here, and the CAP Center at Morgan State’s announcement here.

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News

Kevin Kornegay on guiding automobile cybersecurity

Kevin Kornegay, SPLICE PI from Morgan State University, recently spoke with Tom Temin of the Federal News Network about the CAP Center‘s most recent collaboration with the NSA to ensure automobile cybersecurity. Kornegay describes that to find malicious code injected into the firmware of automobiles, he and his team first need to access the hardware and and then extract the firmware. They then use Ghidra to walk through the code and find malicious components. Kornegay and Temin go on to discuss the interplay between cybersecurity and industry motivations.

Kornegay and his team hope to provide cybersecurity best practices to industry through their governmental and nonprofit relationships. By working with the NSA, the CAP Center can provide technical solutions to the automotive industry to further protect car firmware and hardware. By working with Consumer Reports, the team’s findings can be made accessible to consumers who want safe and secure vehicles.

Check out Kevin Kornegay’s full interview with the Federal News Network here. To keep up to date with SPLICE news, subscribe to our blog at the bottom of this page.

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News

Finding and reporting a device vulnerability

*Posted on behalf of Adam Vandenbussche, Dartmouth ’22*

My name is Adam and I’m a Dartmouth undergraduate researcher on the SPLICE project. I first became involved with SPLICE as a student in Professor Kotz’s COSC 89.26 SPLICE seminar course last fall. After spending the term reading and discussing papers considering a variety of security and privacy concerns in IoT, our culminating project was to conduct either a security or privacy analysis of an IoT device or to explore a topic of our choosing in an open-ended research project.

I’ve been curious to learn more about medical IoT, considering the particularly sensitive nature of the data this ecosystem produces and manages. For my project, I decided to analyze a Bluetooth-enabled device that, when paired with an accompanying smartphone app,* helps users monitor their medication adherence. To perform thorough testing of the device and app’s main functionalities, I used PCAP Remote  and Android’s adb utility, two open-source packet sniffers, to capture network and Bluetooth packets, respectively. I then analyzed the intercepted data using Wireshark, a popular open-source packet analysis program. 

I discovered a handful of mostly minor security and privacy vulnerabilities while analyzing the collected data, but one vulnerability particularly troubled me. Although the app’s API served most of its endpoints over the encrypted HTTPS protocol, it served two of them—the image upload and download endpoints—over the unencrypted HTTP protocol. The images transmitted over these endpoints could include user’s faces, such as for their profile picture, or medical information, such as images of documents discussing their medication. This lack of encryption to protect the transmission of highly sensitive information gravely threatened user privacy.

As a novice ethical hacker, I felt it important to alert the vendor of this vulnerability to avoid any further compromises of users’ privacy. I first informed the company over email, but much to my chagrin, my initial message—as well as the follow ups I sent 45 and 75 days later—went unanswered. Unfortunately, 90 days after my initial outreach I still had yet to hear from the company. 

My next step was to inform the vendor in writing by mail. Despite sending a registered letter including a report detailing how to reproduce the issue and the post office confirming its delivery, I still received no response from the company.

My last resort was to report the vulnerability to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, and hope that they would have more luck getting through. Within a week of submitting my report to CISA, I heard back from the vendor who acknowledged the vulnerability and disabled the implicated features. A day later, I received confirmation from CISA that they had successfully contacted the vendor who patched the issue.

Overall, I was most impressed with CISA’s quick turnaround time and learned a lot about the responsible disclosure process through this experience. It feels good that my work through the SPLICE project has had a direct, positive impact—however small—on the security of a smart product.

* As the disclosure has not been publicized, I will refrain from identifying the vendor. 

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News

Morgan State featured on NSA website

If you’re in the market for a new car, you’ve probably noticed two things recently. The first being that almost all new cars today have electronic components for even the most basic of functionalities. The second being that because cars have these functionalities that require semiconductors (small chips “that manage functions like data storage, graphic rendering, and power consumption in electrical devices”), the recent semiconductor shortage is keeping many new cars on the lots.

If you end up buying that new car (or a relatively new, used car), you will be buying both a transportation and data collection system. “The data collected and recorded is quite broad and includes vehicle speed, passenger count, GPS routes, images from backup cameras, and [personally identifiable information] from connected cell phones. This information stays locally on the vehicle forever and in most cases is uploaded to the [original equipment manufacturer]. Those systems also control critical safety items like brakes. If left unprotected both privacy and lives could be at risk,” says Brian Knighton from the National Security Agency.

That’s where Morgan State comes in. Morgan State University Professor and SPLICE PI, Kevin Kornegay, and his team at the Cybersecurity Assurance and Policy (CAP) Center are working with the NSA’s reverse-engineering tool, Ghidra, to mitigate privacy, cybersecurity, malware, and geolocation vulnerabilities. Their work ensures that the electronic systems are supported and protected throughout the lifetime of the vehicle. Follow the links to learn more about the CAP Center and to read about their partnership with the NSA.

Dr. Kevin Kornegay (front) and Aaron Edmond review Ghidra firmware analysis. (Photo courtesy of Morgan State University)

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News Video

Kotz speaks at Science Cafe

If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about your digital privacy and online security and didn’t know who to ask, this Science Cafe NH episode is the one to watch.

In a one-hour long webinar, questions run the gamut of topics, from “Is 1password a good service to use?” to “What should you do if you’re hacked?” and “What are the real risks of sharing family photos and information on Facebook?” Panelists Professor Kotz, Dr. Nora Draper, and Azeddine Jakib give you their straightforward answers to help keep yourself, your families, communities, and broader networks safer.

What’s one way you’ve integrated security and privacy practices in your technological habits to protect yourself and others?

The panelists and moderator for the March 2021 Science Cafe NH

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People Video

How do you cultivate the CREAM of the crop? Professors Kevin and Michel Kornegay speak about Morgan State’s cybersecurity prowess

This past week, professors Kevin Kornegay and Michel Kornegay spoke with the CEO of Shift5, Josh Lospinoso, about Morgan State University’s unique approach to cultivating an environment of success in cybersecurity. Professors Kevin and Michel Kornegay are the Director and Associate Director, respectively, of Morgan State’s Cybersecurity Assurance and Policy (CAP) Center, which is home to the CREAM Lab (Center for Reverse Engineering and Assured Microelectronics of the School of Engineering).

First, it’s important to understand the necessity of cybersecurity research and implementation. New technologies with increasing capabilities enabled by wireless transmissions, data collection, and data processing, have allowed analog devices to be replaced with digital devices on the consumer level. And with consumers’ desire for new functionalities and features driving industry decisions, security protocols often fall to the wayside. But it’s all too common to hear of hacked toys, water systems being tampered with, and even our government being put at risk because of a lack of cybersecurity.

The CAP Center at Morgan State is unique in its methodology to ensure that students are adequately prepared for and provided with options in the cybersecurity realm — whether it be continuing in academia or transitioning into industry. And partnerships are part of this success. The industry partnerships that the Center has fostered have been essential to the development of the students in its programs. On the one hand, they provide industry mentorship, so that students can have hands-on experience outside of the lab. On the other hand, working with industry partners allows for a constant flow of information which keeps the research, education, and work of the program up-to-date with emerging cybersecurity threats and skills needed to stay ahead of the curve.

But the key to the program’s success? Professors Michel and Kevin Kornegay’s devotion to their students and the learning process. The importance of a “pipeline” can not be understated when it comes to encouraging students from underrepresented groups into cybersecurity. Michel has extended that pipeline to start even earlier, with a summer program specifically designed to get middle school girls in the Baltimore area interested in cybersecurity. Both Kevin and Michel speak about the hands-on experimental activities and active-learning experiences that students are immediately a part of when they enter into PhD programs in the lab. Kevin speaks about a new PhD program at Morgan State – Secure Embedded Systems – focusing on a wide variety of competencies necessary to tackle multifaceted cybersecurity issues. The unique program enables students to work with architectures, protocols, AI, and cryptography, spanning the processor, communication, and application aspects of cybersecurity. This program is so unique that it’s the only one in the state of Maryland.

As the Kornegays say in their conversation with Josh from Shift5, opportunity and preparation are both necessary for the success of their students. By working with industry partners who are on-board with their mission, the professors keep a finger on the pulse of emerging technologies, and are able to provide internship experiences and industry mentorship to their students. And the Kornegays work with their students to meet them where they’re at – recognizing that students come from a wide variety of backgrounds, so a one-size-fits all approach cannot work. And the results, seen by the achievements of their students, the growth of the CAP Center and CREAM lab, and increasing partnerships, prove the success of the Kornegays’ methods.

To hear more from their conversation, check out the video below. To get involved with supporting students in exploring cybersecurity, check out the Gen Cyber program. To learn more about the Kornegays’ work with SPLICE, check out the rest of this website.