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Cyber security project led by the University of Waikato receives $2m from MBIE

2 April 2020

A team of University of Waikato cyber security researchers have received $2m in Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) funding via the Catalyst: Strategic Fund.

Their project, looking at artificial intelligence (AI) for human-centric security, is one of three New Zealand projects funded as part of a desire to establish a new Trans-Tasman Cyber Security Research Programme. The aim of this programme is to develop a joint community of high-quality research in cyber security.

The New Zealand projects will be co-ordinated by the University of Auckland, which will act as the Programme ‘host’ in New Zealand, with Data61 (the Australian Commonwealth, Science and Industrial Research Organisation’s data innovation group) leading Australia’s involvement.

The head researchers on the Waikato University-led project are Dr Vimal Kumar and Professor Albert Bifet, who, along with teams from the University of Auckland and University of Otago, are aiming to solve the issue of cyber security in small-medium enterprises (SMEs).

Dr Vimal Kumar.

“When we look at cyber security in the SME domain, we tend to find that security is really lacking, and that when they do use cyber security tools, they don’t usually have the expertise and resources to configure them accurately so they don’t work or report as they should,” says Dr Kumar.

“We intend to use artificial intelligence to help the usually over-loaded human experts with the more repetitive tasks of configuration management security, reducing their burden to focus on more critical actions.”

Professor Albert Bifet.

At the end of the project, they will have created AI tools that can be deployed in SMEs, remedying configuration deficits and freeing up time for the human experts.

The idea for these projects came from a current project also funded by MBIE called STRATUS, led by Waikato University’s Dr Richard Nelson.

“Both projects aim to foster and nurture relationships between all of the organisations, so that we can continue to put together new research proposals and learn more about the cyber security world,” says Waikato University Research Project Developer Brian Cole.

“Together, the trans-tasman partners intend to develop the AI tools, understand the way the tools can provide information to human experts and use AI to configure the cyber security tools themselves,” says Dr Kumar.

Dr Kumar has been at the University of Waikato for five years, and one of his key areas of focus is applied cryptography. Professor Bifet joins the project due to its focus on AI, as he is world-renowned for his contributions to data science as an author and core founder of the MOA machine learning software.

Now that the funding has been secured, the project is due to begin soon.

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