Top 10 Cybersecurity Innovations 2018

It’s rare for a week to pass without news of the latest data breach, malware attack or denial-of-service shutdown. That’s why it’s more important than ever that innovations in cybersecurity being developed by academic researchers are put to the task of bolstering our digital defences. In this article, we present the top 10 cybersecurity innovations (as ranked by views from our global R&D network over the last two years) which we see as an indicator of where the next breakthroughs will come.

Each of the top 10 cybersecurity innovations in this article is showcased on IN-PART by a university or research institute actively looking to interact and collaborate with new industry partners to further develop their technology. Create a free account and click through the innovation links to view a full non-confidential summary of each project, and connect with the teams behind the project.

1. Intuitive intrusion detection

Electrical impulses travel through a web of nerve cells in our brain and control everything we do, from breathing to feeling and moving. For a few decades now, scientists have been developing models of computing based on these neural networks. By mimicking their cranial namesake, neuromorphic computing offers a host of advantages over traditional centralized computing architectures. Importantly, they use significantly less power and offer greater flexibility. A key application for neuromorphic computing will be in its ability to keep up with rapidly evolving cyber threats. Neuromorphic systems will be able to identify and defend against malicious cyber attacks, without having to be taught what those threats might look like.

A team of researchers at the University of Tennessee have developed one of the first physical implementations of a neural network architecture that is simple, programmable and dynamic. Their technology can be implemented on any device – from a laptop to a high-performance computing system, does not use traditional (power-hungry) digital mechanisms, and will support many other applications including facial recognition and large-scale data analytics.

Learn more about the first of our top 10 cybersecurity innovations: read the full overview on IN-PART

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2. A hands-off approach to cybercrime

Digital forensic analysis is a crucial step in all cybercrime investigations. However, the traditional process is time-consuming, labour-intensive, and demands a high level of technical expertise, all of which prolongs the examination of potentially illicit digital material.

Through a collaboration with the Western Australia Police Force, academics at Edith Cowan University have developed a new tool to streamline digital forensic investigations. Simple Image Preview in Live Environment (SImPLE) is a digital system that enables rapid identification of offensive and/or illegal digital materials by moving images of investigative interest in and out of device memory and displaying them for inspection. Based on highly adaptive algorithms, SImPLE investigates images without disturbing system functionality. The tool significantly reduces the time required for investigation and has already proved to be successful in the prosecution of multiple offenders.

Learn more about the second of our top 10 cybersecurity innovations: read the full overview on IN-PART.

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3. Single-use software

It’s predicted that pirated software can be found on over 30% of computers worldwide. This wholesale theft of intellectual property comes at a large cost to software publishers, damages the economy, and puts end users at risk of malware. Anti-piracy programs are in high demand, but traditional computing approaches can often be vulnerable to interception and reverse engineering.

Enter quantum computing. Much like the archetypal self-destruct message in spy films of old, a research group at the University of Vienna is using light particles as the basis to create one-time, single-use programs in an effort to combat software piracy. What’s more, the researchers have demonstrated their technology in a proof-of-concept study that it has demonstrated its potential for full-scale quantum computing applications. Probabilities and uncertainties are the foundation of quantum computing, but the future of this cybersecurity approach looks bright.

Learn more about the third of our top 10 cybersecurity innovations: read the full overview on IN-PART.

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4. Ending eavesdropping

The current setup for end-to-end encryption ensures the safe exchange of information, but only if the devices being used are secure. In the event that one device in a connection gets compromised, the exchanged information is no longer safe and cannot be protected, thus compromising privacy and cybersecurity at both ends of the line.

End-to-end encryption relies on the use of unique ‘encryption keys’ that allow their holders to access encrypted information. If an outsider manages to acquire or forge the key, the encrypted data can be hijacked without the key owners’ knowledge. To solve this issue, a team of researchers at the University of Birmingham, in collaboration with academics at the University of Luxembourg and University of Oxford, have developed DECIM, ‘Detecting Endpoint Compromise in Messaging’. DECIM makes a recipient’s device automatically verify new key pairs and stores verification certificates in a secure public ledger. This public log of certificates allows a device to certify the validity of an encryption key, protecting the encrypted information from being accessed by unauthorised individuals.

Learn more about the fourth of our top 10 cybersecurity innovations: read the full overview on IN-PART.

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5. De-identifying faces for online privacy

Facial recognition technology was initially designed for surveillance but now it features in many aspects of our lives. Through the ubiquitous use of smartphones and social media, images of our faces are shared widely online. Some of the recognition data in these images, such as facial expressions and age, could be valuable if shared for research. However, as is becoming increasingly apparent, online sharing is open to privacy breaches. Faces disguised by pixelation or blurring in an attempt to retain privacy can be re-identified, and the methods used to do this can damage useful recognition data.

University of Hertfordshire scientists have tackled these issues by developing a more effective method to de-identify faces by improving on an existing algorithm. Their system enables a face to be exchanged with an automatically generated one that can’t be re-identified by existing facial recognition software. Additionally, in this system, the utility of certain data can be preserved, which can then be used for valuable analysis of characteristics, while protecting privacy.

Learn more about the fifth of our top 10 cybersecurity innovations: read the full overview on IN-PART.

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6. Protecting against insider breaches

Mobile phones, digital photos, online banking, personal data: when it comes to cybersecurity the primary consideration is often protection from an outside threat. But what about the threat that an insider may pose? We instinctively trust people who have access to our information, but how well can we protect ourselves if they have a hidden agenda for malicious intent?

Researchers working at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have developed a technology that protects an electronic device and its components from unauthorised use. The technology itself is adaptable. It can be programmed to respond differently if verification authenticity fails at the device or component level. Compared to existing systems it provides, among other things, a substantially lowered risk of undetected attack, insider threat minimisation, and a centralised, secure system management. This cybersecurity innovation can be applied to hardware, software, information processing systems, and already existing devices.

Learn more about the sixth of our top 10 cybersecurity innovations: read the full overview on IN-PART.

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7. Letting the right one in

Just as the Greeks used a Trojan Horse to infiltrate and conquer the city of Troy, so will hackers to get into your computer. Using this technique, hackers conceal malicious software within a link that appears to be genuine, which is often easily clicked and downloaded. Most Trojan viruses will embed themselves within the host system and stay dormant until activated by the sender. Firewalls are a good way in which to secure against Trojan Horse. However, they are not always successful at preventing accidental downloads. Luckily, new countermeasures are at hand.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have designed a statistical form of Trojan-detection system based on multiple excitations of rare logic conditions that target low-controllable and observable nodes within a system – the preferred place for a Trojan to reside. This new technique triggers nodes whose transition probability is less than a specific threshold value, which increases the likelihood of random detection. This system from the Case Western researchers also offers physical unclonable functions and incorporates a locking mechanism for the hardware, which can only be accessed with a ‘key’. This technology will protect against hardware trojan attacks, piracy of hardware IPs during evaluation, design or fabrication, and counterfeit chips.

Learn more about the seventh of our top 10 cybersecurity innovations: read the full overview on IN-PART.

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8. Denying denial of service

Have you ever been so overwhelmed with work that you can no longer function and can’t seem to access your own thoughts? In essence, this is the principle of a denial of service attack, one of the most common cyber attacks, which works by overwhelming servers to prevent users accessing information from their networks. From Xbox Live to Github and the BBC, the victims of these attacks span sectors. Websites are taken offline, causing widespread disruption.

A new cybersecurity approach developed by researchers at Curtin University aims to address the increasing threat of denial of service attack by using distributed modeling of incoming traffic packets to detect and respond to such attacks. Without the need for deep packet inspection, this approach can categorize traffic with reduced computing resource, and it can be implemented as software or hardware and adapted to organizational needs.

Learn more about the eighth of our top 10 cybersecurity innovations: read the full overview on IN-PART.

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9. Securing wireless communications

Wireless communication networks are becoming increasingly vulnerable to intrusion and cyber attacks due to the lack of a physical association between transmitter and receiver. Current security methods, such as cryptography, fail to directly address all the vulnerabilities of the wireless environment. A physical layer authentication technique is needed to secure wireless communications.

At Western University, researchers have developed an embeddable security protocol using the features of a physical layer to prevent the vulnerabilities usually associated with wireless networks. Their novel protocol continuously validates every member of a network, and, alongside traditional methods, completely secures wireless transmissions such as those used by government agencies and in the banking industry.

Learn more about the ninth of our top 10 cybersecurity innovations: read the full overview on IN-PART.

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10. Security for the most insecure networks

With the explosive growth in the number of internet-enabled devices- such as laptops, phones, TVs, and beyond – comes an increase in threats to privacy and security for communication and personal information. Traditionally, ‘Public Key Infrastructure’ (PKI), which relies on devices having certificates validated by authorities, is used for managing online security. However, there is an urgent need for a solution in cases where computers cannot be validated.

Scientists at the University of Oxford have developed an innovative solution to this problem with a new class of protocols for secure communication. This method, which requires less computing power compared to PKI-based solutions, has been designed for ubiquitous applications and can be used for highly secure purposes including the military, intelligence, and communications.

Learn more about the tenth of our top 10 cybersecurity innovations: read the full overview on IN-PART.

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Technology features written by Emma (1), Eve (2 & 4), Jenny (3 & 8), Sharon (5), Marianna (6), Gloria (7), Georgia (9), and Sayali (10). Editing and introduction by Alex.

Copyrights reserved unless otherwise agreed – IN-PART Publishing Ltd., 2018

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Image attribution & credit (in order of appearance):

pxhere – CC0; rgaymon / Pixabay – CC0; Markus Spike / Unsplash – CC0; Tumisu / Pixabay – CC0;; Squeezyboy / Flickr – CC2.0; RainerPrang / Pixabay – CC0; Clement H / Unsplash – CC0; Markus Spike / Unsplash – CC0; Charles Rondeau / – CC0

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