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Computing Ph.D. Students Collaborate with Advisor to Publish New Research

Computing Ph.D. students William Unger and Aparna Srinath collaborated with their advisor, Dr. Liljana Babinkostova, and others to submit research to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The paper, TVLA, Correlation Power Analysis and Side-Channel Leakage Assessment Metrics, was accepted and presented by Dr. Babinkostova on May 10, 2022, at the fifth annual Lightweight Cryptography Workshop. Unger explained the dangers of unprotected devices and networks: “This research is beneficial because it is more common for nontraditional devices, such as home thermostats, door locks, and many other things. If these devices are not secured, they could be used as an attack point to get onto a computer network.” This research will help NIST select the best algorithm for Internet of Things (IoT) devices and make consumer data on these devices more secure.

Srinath described the importance of this research for both cybersecurity and the public: “In 2018, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) initiated a process to solicit, evaluate, and standardize lightweight cryptographic algorithms that are suitable for use in constrained environments (simple electronic devices)”. Rapid advancements made in sensor networks, distributed control systems, IoT Devices, smart grids, and cyber-physical systems have resulted in highly-constrained devices that are often communicating wirelessly. “The current cryptographic algorithms were primarily developed for desktop/server environments and are not particularly well-suited for constrained devices such as sensors, smart cards, RFID tags and so on. Many modern devices, such as smart cards and IoTs, rely on lightweight cryptography. Lightweight cryptography (LWE) has been determined to be a viable security solution for constrained devices due to its efficiency and smaller footprint.” Constrained and IoT devices are vulnerable to Side-Channel Analysis (SCA). Aparna explains: “Side-Channel Analysis is a technique that aims at extracting crucial information and compromising the system by measuring and analyzing physical data such as supply current, changes in power consumption, execution time, and electromagnetic emission.” 

Unger decided to pursue his Ph.D. in Computing with an emphasis in Cybersecurity after taking an undergraduate class at Boise State in discrete mathematics. After graduating in Spring 2022, he accepted a job at Raytheon, a U.S. defense contractor, as a system security engineer. Srinath came to Boise State from Southern India to complete her Ph.D. in Computing and hopes to work in academia after graduation, focusing on cybersecurity.