Yale to Partner in NSF Program Advancing Cybersecurity and Privacy

August 1, 2022

Yale University is among the key partners of the Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program, a $25.4 million multi-institutional effort supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that seeks to advance ambitious research and center-scale projects in cybersecurity and privacy.

“The Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program is one of NSF’s largest research programs, recognizing the criticality of cybersecurity and privacy to the nation’s economy and to citizens,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “These investments support cybersecurity research across the country that can be translated into solutions that improve our quality of life.”

The NSF grantees will work to strengthen open-source supply chain security, increase computing privacy for marginalized populations, and ensure trustworthy cloud computing. In addition to the scientific research, these efforts will support the NSF Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering’s Broadening Participation in Computing initiative that seeks to bring more people from underrepresented groups into the computing research community.

The projects include:

Center for Distributed Confidential Computing

With Indiana University serving as the lead institution, this project will use the “trusted execution environment” hardware capability in modern chips to run secure computation in a way that can’t be compromised by malicious software across distributed computing systems such as cloud computing environments. Researchers will work to provide solutions for data in use such as training machine learning models on private data, across cloud and edge systems. In addition to Yale, partners include Purdue University, Penn State University, Carnegie Mellon University, The Ohio State University, Spelman College, and Duke University.

“Personal data contains valuable information that can enable transformative – even life-saving – applications,” said Fan Zhang, assistant professor of computer science at Yale and one Center’s key researchers. “For example, disease prognosis can use AI tools to predict the course of a patient’s disease since its onset and help the physician find the best possible treatment. However, the deployment of such innovation is hindered by the lack of effective protection of data in use.”

Zhang said the Center could advance cybersecurity and privacy technologies and provide future cutting-edge and transformative solutions to society.

“Our vision at Center for Distributed Confidential Computing (CDCC) is to enable practical, scalable, and verifiable control on information exposure and data use in big data analytics,” he said. “This will open the door to real-world deployment of a whole new set of computing innovations with profound impacts.”

Additional projects include:

Enabling a Secure and Trustworthy Software Supply Chain

Led by North Carolina State University, this collaborative research will focus on open-source supply chain security. All modern software includes open-source software, and there is a high risk of malicious, criminal manipulation. Researchers on this project will work with industry and government agencies to develop scientific principles, create tools and processes, and develop metrics for supply chain security to reduce risks with software used by consumers, government, industry, and academia. The project will aid the software industry by creating a diverse workforce of technical leaders and practitioners educated and trained in secure software supply chain methods. Other members of the team include Carnegie Mellon University, The George Washington University, and the University of Maryland College Park.

Securing the Future of Computing for Marginalized and Vulnerable Populations

Led by the University of Florida, this project will address privacy and security issues in marginalized and vulnerable populations. These populations have unique security and privacy needs, concerns and capabilities that are underserved, leaving them at risk of harm. Researchers will develop solutions that support these populations. This project will bring together computer and social scientists from the University of Florida, University of Washington, and Indiana University.