Commonwealth Cyber Initiative CATAPULT fund launches translational research projects

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As researchers and their teams work to answer questions and find solutions for protecting privacy and securing information through cybersecurity innovation, many set their sights on commercialization. Still, the path from research ideas to consumer products can be long and winding. To help straighten the path the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) is supporting a Cyber Acceleration, Translation, and Advanced Prototyping for University Linked Technology (CATAPULT) Fund. The fund’s purpose‑‑advance collaborative translational research projects among CCI partners, to speed up the progress of academic research outcomes to the marketplace.

"It is truly exciting to tap into the breadth of innovation from academic institutions across the Commonwealth and introduce these faculty inventors to the opportunity to expand the impact of their research through commercialization,” says Liza Wilson Durant, associate dean, strategic initiatives and community engagement, College of Engineering and Computing. “It is just the right time for Virginia to support and accelerate cybersecurity innovation as the Commonwealth establishes its role as a magnet for new companies with the best and brightest solutions to the nation's greatest cybersecurity challenges."

In July 2022 CCI awarded seven teams from four universities in the Northern Virginia Node funding for their projects. These research teams received up to $50,000, with funding increments released based on the achievement of agreed-upon milestones. The teams and their projects are as follows.

Protecting Smartphones from Fingerphoto Spoofing
George Mason University Assistant Professor Emanuela Marasco’s the project addresses the urgent need for a mechanism that properly secures smartphone technology. Contactless fingerprint authentication allows faster capture times, unattended operations, and high hygiene. These systems, however, are still in the early stages of development. Although researchers are advancing matching, the risk of spoofing for contactless authentication must be mitigated as well. This project addresses the problem.

Distributed Online Intrusion Detection System for IoT devices via Power Side-channel Auditing 
As the number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices has increased rapidly, IoT botnets and information stealer attacks have exploited the vulnerabilities of IoT devices. It is still challenging, however, to detect the initial intrusion on IoT devices before massive attacks. Professor Gang Zhou, from the College of William & Mary, and his partners at Old Dominion University are addressing the challenge of the lack of accurate models in real-time for ubiquitous attack detection with their project.

Algorithm Evaluation for Backdoor Detection and Mitigation in Remote Sensing Systems
Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has advanced to the point that it is inescapable in life and work. AI models extract knowledge from data to make decisions. Though AI has achieved state-of-the-art performances for many applications, it can be easily deceived by the backdoor attack. Old Dominion University Professor Jiang Li and his partners at Maxar’s project leverages a novel approach to addressing this concern.

RF Fingerprinting Techniques for Millimeter-Wave Device Authentication in 5G/NextG Wireless Communication
Millimeter-wave (mmWave) technology is a key enabler for 5G and NextG wireless communications as it supports applications that require high-throughput and ultra-low latency. Due to the broadcast nature of the wireless medium, however, mmWave communication is vulnerable to various attacks. With this project Kai Zeng, associate professor, George Mason University and his team aim to develop robust and efficient techniques to address these vulnerabilities.

Extended Reality Empowered 5G Telemedicine Mentoring 
Old Dominion University Associate Professor Sachin Shetty’s project looks at the development and commercialization of a 5G telemedicine platform that leverages Extended Reality technologies and a 5G environment. Because 5G technology supports massive capacity connections and fast data rates it has the potential to transform healthcare training and service delivery. One example, 5 G-enabled telemedicine, connects remotely located medical providers and allows access to near real-time data, and permits split-second decision-making critical in health care environments.

Super Timelines
When a cybersecurity incident occurs, analysts need to quickly construct a forensic timeline of events to assess the impact and plan the response. This effort typically involves extracting logs and other artifacts from various sources and then combining them into a single list, ordering them by date and time. Only then can an analyst look for clues to help better understand the course of events before, during, and after the incident. With Super Timelines, Florian Buchholz,
professor at James Madison University, and his partners at Gigasheet ( will develop a turnkey solution for this problem, based on a modern cloud-based infrastructure.

“Without this funding from CCI, the research and start-ups that are so critical to Virginia’s strategy of building a high-impact cyber economy would not have the opportunity to meet the wonderful members of the tech community who have rallied around them to provide advice, guidance, and structure to launching new products and companies,” says Associate Vice President of the Office of Research Innovation and Economic Development, at George Mason University, Paula Sorrell.