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The Department of National Defence awards Concordia researcher $1M to develop new strategies against cyberattacks

The Gina Cody School’s Kash Khorasani leads a team working to improve the safety and reliability of Canadian naval fleets
November 21, 2022
A navy frigate ship on the open ocean.
The Royal Canadian Navy Halifax class frigate Her Majesty's Canadian ship Regina. | Photo courtesy of the royal collection of the United Kingdom.

Royal Canadian Navy vessels are increasingly vulnerable to targeted cyberattacks. These can impact the safety and integrity of assets and restrict decision-makers’ ability to use them.

Concordia researchers have secured $1 million in funding from Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) to help tackle these concerns. The funding is a continued investment from the Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program to develop solutions for its challenge, Knot Vulnerable: Locking Down Cybersecurity on Naval Vessels.

The project is led by Kash Khorasani, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Honorary Concordia University Research Chair in Control of Autonomous Network of Unmanned Systems (Tier 1). He and his team aim to develop new methodologies that defend the cybersecurity vulnerabilities of naval vessels.

“We will be looking at means to counter these key, emerging disruptive technologies,” Khorasani says. “This is a challenge the government has recognized requires the development of novel approaches.”

Walter Lucia, associate professor at the Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering, and Rastko Selmic, professor of electrical and computer engineering, are the other project co-applicants from Concordia.

The project is titled Cybersecurity Monitoring, Diagnosis, Mitigation and Resilient Operation of Naval IT/OT/PT Systems Against Malicious Attacks. It received more than $200,000 in November 2021 for its initial six-month phase.

During that span, researchers completed a proof of concept and feasibility study with more than 1,200 pages of technical reports.

Smiling man with short, dark hair, greying at the temples, wearing a blue blazer and light blue, patterned shirt and tie. Kash Khorasani: “This is a challenge the government has recognized requires the development of novel approaches.”

Important contributions from partners

With $1 million in funding over the next year, the second phase of the project will see Concordia researchers work closely with partners from different sectors.

Montreal-headquartered high-technology company CAE will serve as the project’s industrial partner to develop an Intrusion Detection System. At the same time, the Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) research organization based in Italy, will support the project with its maritime expertise, according to the partnership agreement.

Researchers from the University of Windsor will also share their expertise and research infrastructure as project co-applicants.

Khorasani says that integrating all partner resources and expertise will be crucial to helping researchers demonstrate and test the proposed technologies in a simulated environment.

Leaders in cybersecurity

Khorasani also believes the ability to secure funding for the second phase of the project is a testament to the work of student researchers and to the university’s reputation in the field.

“This once again demonstrates Concordia’s internationally recognized expertise when it comes to cybersecurity,” he says.

Indeed, funding for the project is just the latest example of faculty at the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science taking on a key role in the development of Canada’s cybersecurity infrastructure.

Earlier this year, the Government of Canada announced nearly $80 million in funding over four years to the National Cybersecurity Consortium (NCC), a not-for-profit network established by Concordia and four other Canadian universities.

The grant, among the largest Concordia has ever been a part of, is slated to help the NCC establish the Cyber Security Innovation Network. The platform seeks to enhance research on innovative projects and develop skilled cybersecurity talent across the country.

About IDEaS

IDEaS is a defence innovation program that invests in research and technology aimed at meeting the demands of today’s complex global defence and security environment. The program enables Canada to deliver the capabilities needed for a strong and agile military by providing financial support to foster innovation through contracts, contribution agreements and grants.

The IDEaS program helps innovators by supporting analysis, funding research and developing processes that facilitate access to knowledge. It also supports testing, integration, adoption and acquisition of creative solutions for Canada’s defence and security communities.

Learn more about the
Concordia’s Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering.

Find out more about Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS), the National Cybersecurity Consortium and the Cyber Security Innovation Network.



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