Kannan's $300K NSF Grant

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Alabama State University's Dr. Uma Kannan. 

NSF Awards $300-K Grant to ASU's Dr. Kannan Promoting A.I.- Based Cybersecurity  

By Kenneth Mullinax/ASU 

The prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $300,000 artificial intelligence-(AI) based cybersecurity grant to Alabama State University's Dr. Uma Kannan, an associate professor of Computer Science. The three-year award is an NSF research initiation grant with a goal of modeling, predicting, and tracebacking malware strains.

Kannan explained that the individual research project will allow her to conduct research to develop new integrated AI-based models to detect web application logic vulnerabilities automatically and to protect cyberspace from ever-evolving, evasive malware-based cyberattacks. She pointed out that the project also promotes diversity, since Alabama State is an HBCU with more than 92 percent underrepresented minority undergraduates studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines. 

"This initiative approach represents a new research area (AI-based cybersecurity) at ASU, and the project will improve teaching and learning through the development of methods for incorporating cybersecurity and secure software development methodologies into teaching and undergraduate research projects across multiple STEM disciplines, including but not limited to Computer Science, Mathematics, Biology, and Biomedical Engineering, thus having a broader impact on the STEM majors, their professional development, and retention," Kannan said. "This project will expand the nation's cybersecurity workforce, with a focus on minority involvement."


Scientific data, Kannan points out, shows that Cyberspace is intertwined with the American way of life since it is immersed into the nation's infrastructure due to so many events taking place online.

"Cyberspace is the foundation of our nation's economy and a vital nerve center for our national security," stated Kannan. "Network disruptions and security breaches impact our lives in ways ranging from inconvenient to life-threatening. The threat posed by cyberattacks to our national security is growing and during a recent U.S. Senate hearing, the nation's top intelligence officials warned that the cyberthreat against the U.S. will surpass terrorism in the future as the country's greatest threat." 


The specific aims of this project are multifaceted and include such objectives as developing a new AI-based model for the automatic discovery of malwares through static analysis, creating a new black-box AI-based model for the automatic discovery of malware strains through dynamic analysis, training undergraduate students in cybersecurity through undergraduate research projects, and improving public cybersecurity awareness through community workshops and outreach events.


Dr. Kannan feels that the project will improve teaching, learning and student careers after graduation at ASU. 

"Through the development of innovative methods for incorporating cybersecurity and secure software development methodologies into teaching and undergraduate research projects...students will be versed in practical elements of Cybersecurity sufficient to be attractive to employers, exposed to Artificial Intelligence-based Cybersecurity practices regularly used in industry, and competent in developing working solutions to defend cyberspace and computer networks through undergraduate research projects,” Kannan said.  

News media contact: Kenneth Mullinax, 334-229-4104.