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Khir Henderson featured in Diversity in Action Fall 2021 Magazine

Khir Henderson, doctoral student at Morgan State University whose work focuses on designing and developing sustainable and scalable architectures to help protect some of the major security vulnerabilities in our nation’s critical infrastructures, was recently featured in the Fall 2021 edition of Diversity in Action.

Khir’s work on the SPLICE team includes investigating hardware and software implementations of hardware-based security used to establish the ‘root of trust’ in IoT devices or systems. He has also lead the development of an IoT device testbed, housed at the CAP Center at Morgan State University, that uses an automated network-security architecture following the Manufacturer Usage Description (MUD) IETF model. Khir has collaborated with researchers at Johns Hopkins University on developing a smart home scanning apparatus that encompasses discovery, fingerprinting, and profiling.

You can find Khir’s feature in the Fall 2021 edition of Diversity in Action here. To stay up-to-date with SPLICE happenings, consider following the SPLICE blog by scrolling to the bottom of this page and entering your email address.

SPLICE Researcher and Doctoral Student, Khir Henderson
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News Publication

New SPLICE paper on Engaging Underrepresented Students in Cybersecurity

To increase minority students’ participation, particularly African Americans in cyber fields, STEM engineering education requires a new approach to student learning. Students learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process. The concept of gamification is an emerging alternative approach that adds game elements to traditional instruction, engaging students in learning engineering concepts. In recent years, capture-the-flag competitions have emerged as a gamification approach to training and building students’ interest in cybersecurity. 

During the spring 2019 academic term, a team of students from the Electrical and Computer Engineering department of Morgan State University participated in an embedded capture-the-flag (eCTF) competition organized by MITRE. The eCTF was also offered as a graduate course in the department. This graduate course included a cohort of minority students who had been exposed to fundamental concepts regarding secure embedded systems. We found that the eCTF allowed students to work in teams, develop critical thinking skills, address complex technical issues associated with real-world applications, and motivated continued learning and increased research productivity after the course ended. This paper aims to describe the design and implementation of the eCTF competition in the graduate course and summarize the successes and the barriers that impact the engagement of minority students in cybersecurity.

To read more, check out the full paper here. To see other SPLICE publications, check out our Zotero page here.

Michel A. Kornegay, Md Tanvir Arafin, and Kevin Kornegay. Engaging Underrepresented Students in Cybersecurity using Capture-the-Flag(CTF) Competitions (Experience). 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. July 2021. https://peer.asee.org/37048

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News

Webinar on Communications Metadata and User Privacy

Join us for a Zoom webinar, by our very own Dr. Susan Landau, on the topic of Communications Metadata and User Privacy. The link to register and add the event to your calendar can be found on the bottom right corner of the flyer below and is copied here: https://tinyurl.com/52my6sh4

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News Publication

New SPLICE paper on Security and Privacy Attitudes

Many studies of mobile security and privacy are, for simplicity, limited to either only Android users or only iOS users. However, it is not clear whether there are systematic differences in the privacy and security knowledge or preferences of users who select these two platforms. Understanding these differences could provide important context about the generalizability of research results. This paper reports on a survey (n=493) with a demographically diverse sample of U.S. Android and iOS users. We compare users of these platforms using validated privacy and security scales (IUIPC-8 and SA-6) as well as previously deployed attitudinal and knowledge questions from the Pew Research Center. As a secondary analysis, we also investigate potential differences among users of different smart-speaker platforms, including Amazon Echo and Google Home. We find no significant differences in privacy attitudes of different platform users, but we do find that Android users have more technology knowledge than iOS users. In addition, we find evidence (via comparison with Pew data) that Prolific participants have more technology knowledge than the general U.S. population.

To read more, check out the full paper and presentation from the Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS) 2021 here. To see other SPLICE publications, check out our Zotero page here.

Desiree Abrokwa, Shruti Das, Omer Akgul, and Michelle L. Mazurek. Comparing Security and Privacy Attitudes Among U.S. Users of Different Smartphone and Smart-Speaker Platforms. USENIX Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS) 2021, pages 139-158. USENIX Association, August 2021.

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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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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