Engineering professor receives nearly $1 million in National Security Agency grants for cybersecurity research

Friday, March 5, 2021 - 13:36

DENTON (UNT), Texas — A researcher at the University of North Texas has been awarded almost $1 million in grants from the National Security Agency for his research in cybersecurity.

Professor Ram Dantu, lead PI in the College of Engineering Department of Computer Science and Engineering is working on four cybersecurity-related projects funded by grants between $200,000 and $300,000 each.

“Cybersecurity is critical to our technological infrastructure, and without it, we risk compromising our data,” said Dantu, who also serves as director of the Center for Information and Cyber Security. “It’s in every aspect of our daily lives – from our mobile and electronic devices to automobiles to city and healthcare infrastructure.”

His first project, with Computer Science and Engineering associate professors Kirill Morozov and Sanjukta Bhowmick, will create a framework for securely and anonymously sharing cell phone data to help identify COVID-19 super-spreader events. The work will help locate active spreaders and communities  through anonymous contact networks built through cell phone data. The results can be used by public health departments to prioritize individuals and communities for quarantining and vaccination.  Privacy and security of citizens’ COVID-19 data is another key objective of the research.

Dantu has partnered with Computer Science and Engineering Senior Lecturer Mark Thompson for the other three projects, which focus on increasing the number and quality of cybersecurity professionals.

“As our technology use increases globally, so does our need for more educators within the field of cybersecurity,” said Dantu. “Our goal is to help meet this demand by providing the specialized training within the field to increase knowledge around the topic for both teaching and research.”

Thompson and Dantu intend to research and develop competency tools for work-skill-readiness for cybersecurity along with mentoring opportunities for doctoral students and industry professionals to produce highly qualified faculty to inspire and engage the next generation of professionals. Additionally, Dantu and his team plans to create activities and bridge courses that encourage African American and Hispanic students to study cybersecurity.

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Trista Moxley