Illinois Researchers Win NSF Frontier Award to Enhance Cybersecurity of Clouds and Mobiles in Healthcare
CS faculty Carl Gunter, Roy Campbell, and Klara Nahrstedt have been awarded a $10,000,000 Frontier Award by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund a project entitled Trustworthy Health and Wellness (THaW).
Frontier Awards go to large, multi-institution projects that address and heighten the visibility of grand challenge research areas in science and engineering with broad economic and scientific impact. THaW was the largest of three awards given out nationally this year by the Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) program at NSF. "Cybersecurity is one of the most significant economic and national security challenges facing our nation today," said Farnam Jahanian, NSF's assistant director for computer and information science and engineering (CISE), in the release announcing the awards.
The interdisciplinary THaW team, which is led by faculty from Dartmouth College, also includes researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Michigan. The team has expertise in key aspects of healthcare such as population and behavioral health and the economics of healthcare as well as computer technology areas like security, privacy, clouds, and mobiles.
The mission of THaW is to enable the promise of health and wellness technology by innovating mobile- and cloud-computing systems that respect the privacy of individuals and the trustworthiness of medical information. Areas of attention will include usable authentication and privacy tools, trustworthy control of medical devices and effective methods to detect malware, compute trust metrics and audit medical information systems and networks. In the long term, this project will help create health systems that can be trusted by individual citizens to protect their privacy and by health professionals to ensure data integrity and security. THaW will also training the next generation of computer scientists by creating courses and sponsoring summer programs for undergraduate and K-12 students and by developing an exchange program for postdoctoral fellows and research students.
At Illinois, the researchers will work through the Health Information Technology Center (HITC). “The University of Illinois has a growing reputation for incorporating computer science techniques into the health arena,” said Gunter, who is the director of HITC. “We are uniquely positioned to provide expertise in security and privacy for clouds and mobiles in this Frontier Award project. THaW will build on other successful efforts at Illinois, like the HHS SHARPS program, the Illinois-Mayo Alliance, and the Cloud Computing Testbed.”
In one part of THaW the Illinois researchers will be developing methods that could be employed to develop a cloud-based repository of genomic information controlled by individuals for their personal genomic data based on a technology called “Genomic Personal Health Record (GPHR).” This will enable individuals to support their care with genomic information as they choose (a process sometimes known as “individualized medicine”) and share data for research or recreation using secure methods to be developed by THaW.
Another part of THaW to be pursued by Illinois researchers will develop secure techniques for managing health information with cell phones. Current cell phone software is not secure enough for critical medical applications, but security protections can be improved to enable the convenience of mobile health technologies. THaW will develop forensic techniques for auditing mobile technologies that interface with medical records to track down problems and limit risks to safety and security caused by errors and compromises.