UTSA, UT Dallas, Purdue share $3 million National Science Foundation grant

The University of Texas at San Antonio, University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) and Purdue University announce a five-year, $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation for new cyber security research. Under the direction of principal investigator Ravi Sandhu, executive director of the UTSA Institute for Cyber Security and professor of computer scienc, the researchers will study assured data provenance, the discipline of computer science concerned with the integrity and privacy of data sources, contents and successive transformations.

Murat Kantarcioglu, associate professor of computer science and director of the UT Dallas Data Security and Privacy Lab, is UT Dallas’ principal investigator, and Elisa Bertino, computer science professor and interim director of the Purdue Cyber Center in Discovery Park, is Purdue’s principal investigator.

Senior researchers participating in the project include UTSA’s Greg White, associate professor of computer science and director of the Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security, Shouhuai Xu, associate professor of computer science; UT Dallas’ Alain Bensoussan, distinguished research professor of operations management and director of the International Center for Decision and Risk Analysis, and Bhavani Thusaisingham, the Louis A. Beecherl Jr. I distinguished professor of computer science and director of the Cyber Security Research Center; and Gabriel Ghinita, a former postdoctoral student of Bertino at Purdue who now is an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

"With the proliferation of data on the Web, the source or provenance of data has become a critical factor in establishing data trustworthiness in a variety of business and scientific disciplines," said Sandhu. "To be useful, provenance data must have high integrity and accuracy. At the same time, provenance data can be confidential and private, so it should only be selectively disclosed, if at all. How do we balance these conflicting goals?"

Over the last decade, there has been significant progress in data provenance techniques and models. However, thus far, there is no overarching, systematic framework for the security and privacy of data provenance.

Researchers from UTSA, UT Dallas and Purdue will develop a comprehensive framework to address the security and privacy challenges of provenance data, allowing society to receive maximum benefits from provenance data with realistic tradeoffs. The project will develop reference architectures, offer provenance-related definitions, recommend ways to implement provenance plans in enterprises and provide a risk management framework to guide application architects, designers and users.

"Data, like an historic painting or piece of literature, can have tremendous value since it is widely used to make policy, medical and other important decisions. So its reliability and authenticity is critical," said Bertino, computer science professor and interim director of the Purdue Cyber Center in Discovery Park and Purdue’s principal investigator. "Through this project, our team in Purdue’s cyber center will focus on the challenging issues in defining models that can provide context for provenance data, its analysis for scientific applications and how it can be transmitted securely using watermarking techniques. We also hope to advance tools in how provenance data is captured using various computer operating systems and application software, and systems to ensure the data is authentic without compromising confidentiality and privacy."

UT Dallas will build privacy-aware access control policies for provenance data. “At UT Dallas, we will enable policies to protect certain sensitive paths in the flow of provenance,” said Kantarcioglu, associate professor of computer science and director of the UT Dallas Data Security and Privacy Lab. “In addition, our group will research data sanitization techniques to limit the disclosure of sensitive data sources due to provenance release, and we will develop a risk management framework for provenance releases.”

Ultimately, the research will benefit the community by providing protocols to increase the trustworthiness of data found online, transmitted and processed by computers.

UTSA, UT Dallas and Purdue began collaborating on assured data provenance research through a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiatives (MURI) project funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The MURI project enabled the team to develop the preliminaries of a model for assured data provenance, which they then used to apply for NSF funding. The research also offers the universities an opportunity to train graduate students in the theory and practice of data provenance.