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UT Tyler Professor Guides Student Team to Finals in International Cyber Security Competition

November 6, 2013

Media Contact:  Hannah Buchanan
Public Affairs Specialist
Marketing and Communications
The University of Texas at Tyler
903.565.5769 or 903.539.7196 (cell)

The University of Texas at Tyler is among the top 11 international collegiate teams to compete in a prestigious cyber security competition at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University-Brooklyn, Dr. James Nelson, College of Engineering and Computer Science dean, announced.

This is UT Tyler’s first attempt to contend in the 2013 Embedded Systems Security Challenge and qualify for the finals, which are Nov. 13 – 16. This past summer, Dr. David Hoe, UT Tyler assistant professor of electrical engineering, received a grant to research cyber security at NYU-Poly, and he has been mentoring the 11-member team since August. With that brief, yet intense preparation, the team earned one of 11 places in the finals.

The contest, held with other events as part of NYU-Poly’s Cyber Security Awareness Week, challenges students’ knowledge in one of the newest and most difficult fields within cyber security: testing and protecting electronic hardware.

“This is a notoriously difficult competition. It’s a hardware cyber-security challenge, where the idea is to pretend you are a hardware hacker. The team needs to try to insert a malicious circuit into hardware and try to avoid detection from the security team,” said Hoe. “It’s sort of like trying to inject a virus into a computer, but we’re working with hardware instead of software.”

To qualify for the finals, the UT Tyler team submitted a two-page technical paper discussing the best ways to insert Trojan circuits while avoiding detection. Chosen from nearly 50 collegiate teams worldwide that competed in this year’s challenge, the team will submit three circuit designs prior to the finals.

Competitors include teams from France, NYU-Abu Dhabi, NYU-Poly, University of Connecticut, as well as two other UT System institutions – UT Dallas and UT San Antonio.

UT Tyler Ninja Tyler Trojans are Mukesh Reddy Rudra, Varun Nagoorkar, Lagadapati Yamuna Sri, Lakshman Raut, Rajeshwar Rao Pinninti, Vrunda Tony Chitavaduta, Elizabeth Minu Joseph, Shyam Sai Prashanth Haran, Nimmy Anna Daniel, Mani Kumar Bikkumalla and Dinesh Veramachineni, all graduate electrical engineering students at UT Tyler. Rudra, team leader, will represent the university in New York.

A research team from Columbia University will offer the defense for the hack by competitors. Like all CSAW contests, the Embedded Systems Security Challenge is organized by students, with mentoring and judging by academics and security professionals.

All the attacks and defenses will be shared with other researchers on a National Science Foundation-funded computing research infrastructure called Trust-Hub, which was co-founded by NYU-Poly.

The three-day CSAW finals will draw hundreds of the world’s most promising cyber security students and leading practitioners to NYU-Poly’s campus.

For more information, visit https://csaw.isis.poly.edu/.

One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler offers excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. More than 80 undergraduate and graduate degree programs are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of more than 7,500 high-ability students at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine.

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