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February 15, 2019

CPRI Receives $1.4M Gift for Securing the Seams of the Internet of Everything

The Herman P. & Sophia Taubman Foundation has provided a generous gift of $1.4 million to UCI’s Cybersecurity Policy & Research Institute (CPRI), led by Executive Director Bryan Cunningham. Founded in the 1960s by the six children of Herman and Sophia Taubman, the foundation aims to promote the advancement of scientific research, higher education and community philanthropy. Six Taubman cousins manage the foundation, including attorney Perry Taubman, currentlya visiting scholar at UC San Diego researching autonomous agents for medical diagnosis and insurance coding. Taubman and his cousins understand the crucial need for research focused on cybersecurity and the emerging Internet of Everything (IoE) — that is, the interaction between the traditional internet and the hundreds of millions of connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

“The board members of the foundation have professional careers in law, technology, medicine and infrastructure finance,” says Taubman. “We have all been concerned for a long time about cybersecurity in terms of our professional fields and as citizens on the level of national security.” Consequently, the foundation was seeking ways to advance practical solutions in this area. “I personally looked at the cybersecurity research programs at a number of universities and felt that CPRI, under Bryan Cunningham’s leadership, had a uniquely suited focus around all of these areas.”

Cunningham is excited about this partnership to “secure the seams of the IoE.” As he notes, “we could not be more thrilled with the Taubman family’s support and with Perry’s participation in our efforts.” Drawing on UCI’s multidisciplinary expertise, these new IoE efforts aim to fill a void in current cybersecurity-related research and policy and technical solutions development. “Our very strong team will address important and pressing issues affecting not only the privacy and security of individuals but also our country’s economic and national security,” he explains. “This mission is squarely in CPRI’s wheelhouse.”

The foundation’s gift will provide resources to support three new CPRI projects focused on the IoT and IoE. Computer Science Professor Ian Harris is leading efforts to perform IoT/IoE technical testing and develop an IoE Cyber Test Range on the UCI campus, and Computer Science Professor Scott Jordan is heading up research into regulation and standards setting. UCI Law Professor Shauhin Talesh is exploring the emerging role of insurance companies as de facto cyber regulators. Cunningham will act as the overall lead for the interrelated projects.

“All of these areas are critical for advancing cybersecurity,” says Taubman. Furthermore, the projects address his two main concerns surrounding IoE — the lack of standards and the difficulty in securing embedded systems. “This requires expertise in engineering that is very different from traditional security,” he explains. “We found a unique team on the technical side with Ian and Scott who were able to approach the problem from both an engineering and policy perspective.”

The gift will provide funding for Ph.D. candidate researchers, facilities and equipment for IoE testing, data analysis support, and standards and policy development. It will also support undergraduate research and education, enable CPRI and its team to hold multiple conferences, and support UCI students in cybersecurity “Capture the Flag” competitions.

All of this fits well with the Taubman Foundation’s goal of supporting scientific research and higher education in an effort to build a more security-minded engineering culture. “Our vision is that security will become a fundamental concern of engineers and companies for every relevant device, as opposed to an afterthought,” says Taubman. “There is a critical shortage of security engineers right now that needs to be addressed by higher education, but even more important is developing a culture of security engineering in all who graduate from our schools of engineering.”

Shani Murray