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Research Themes

Networks and Security

On Guard: Combating Attacks on Operating Systems

The advent of the cloud and the rise of social networks have connected us on a level never seen before, but it has also opened us up to significant threats on our privacy and security.

Dr. Ali Miri has more than 20 years of experience with applied cryptography and computer and network security, and he believes we’re living in a new computing paradigm. “Information can be gathered from a large number of sources—from smartphones and tablets to sensors and tags.” It is often stored on massive, distributed “cloud” databases. Online social networks have added a new dimension to how users interact and share information. As a result, “privacy and security represent a major challenge,” said Miri.

As founding Director of Ryerson’s Information and Computer Security Laboratory (iCaSL, he works with industry on security-related projects that focus on mobile platform security and on cost-effective and scalable solutions for securing cloud services. Miri and his team have worked to identify the key software and hardware features used, and to classify similarities and differences in the effectiveness and impact of these attacks on different operating systems.

In addition, they’ve been working on isolating the most common methods of malware propagation in mobile networks, on the current monitoring schemes used, and their shortcomings.

“Cloud computing is one of the fastest growing computing paradigms, with Software as a Service (SaaS) as one of its key tenants,” says Miri. SaaS promises improved performance and reduction in costs in the support and maintenance of industrial software. However, the use of SaaS tools can also expose business details—including sensitive data about ongoing projects and other business intelligence. Miri is designing and implementing cryptographic solutions that enable effective use of these tools, while guaranteeing greater privacy and security.


Batten Down The Hatches: Using New Protocols to Protect Sensitive Data

Data security is an issue of considerable national and international importance. When security is compromised and sensitive data is released, these attacks on networks can prove disastrous.

Professor Isaac Woungang’s interest in networking technology focuses his students’ efforts on creating tools that address improving the quality of service, security and sustainability of wireless networks. He is the Director of Ryerson’s Distributed Applications and Broadband NEtworks Laboratory (DABNEL), whose goal is to address some of the challenges found in telecommunication networks and mobile systems—using algorithms and software development frameworks.

“Our contribution to the field of networks security will be the provision of methods and guidelines for controlling and protecting networks from any miscreant," says Woungang. DABNEL has done groundbreaking work on wireless ad hoc networks, and has created new protocols that make stronger and less susceptible to attack.

Dr. I. Woungang received his M.Sc and Ph.D degrees, all in Mathematics from Université de la Méditerranée-Aix Marseille II, France, and Université du Sud, Toulon-Var, France, in 1990 and 1994 respectively. In 1999, he received a M.A.Sc from INRS-Énergie, Matériaux et Télécommunications, University of Quebec, Montreal, Canada. From 1999 to 2002, he worked as a Software engineer at Nortel Networks. Since 2002, he has been with the Department of Computer Science at Ryerson University.

Highly Charged: Extending Wireless Sensor Networks’ Lifetimes

We rely increasingly on wireless tech. But what happens when the batteries run out? Mohammad Shahnoor Islam Khan’s research deals with Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) and making them last longer, without having to manually replace batteries. Because WSNs are required to perform for longer and longer periods of time without human intervention, battery lifetime is a major constraint. Khan is focused on trying to extend the lifetime of wireless sensor networks via wireless radio frequency recharging. This way, recharging can occur with minimal disruption to the regular network operation, by using either environmental energy or radio energy pulses from the base station or access point. Under the direction of Dr. Jelena Mišić and Dr. Vojislav Mišić, professors of computer science in Ryerson’s Department of Computer Science, Khan is working on the design of WSN with wireless re-charging on node batteries.

The goal? Extending the network lifetime while maintaining the desired communication throughput of the network. Khan has helped developed a system whereby individual nodes are instructed to request a recharge whenever they detect that their battery level falls below a predefined threshold; other nodes in the vicinity can repeat recharge requests if the access point fails to properly receive it due to noise. They present a simple MAC protocol based on polling that includes provisions for on-demand recharging using the same radio frequency band as normal data communications. And they developed a probabilistic performance model to evaluate the impact of the recharging process on data communications under a range of values.

This has profound implications on WSN’s, and can potentially offer greater reliability and controllability.

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