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Engineering professors receive defense department grant for work on safety/security-critical systems

Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020



MANHATTAN — Two Kansas State University professors of computer science have been awarded $231,000 for a two-year period by the U.S. Department of Defense — Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for development of tools that will assure the safety and security of mission-critical software.

The project, "Software Implementation from Rigorous Formal Usable Requirements (SIRFUR)," which includes funds for an optional third year and an anticipated award of up to $693,000, will be led by Robby, professor and Don and Linda Glaser — Carl and Mary Ice Keystone research scholar, with co-investigator John Hatcliff, university distinguished professor and Lucas-Rathbone professor in engineering.

The SIRFUR tools will be used to specify and verify behavioral properties of Department of Defense system implementations. While application of other logic-based techniques requires highly paid experts with specialized doctoral degrees, SIRFUR has a unique approach that emphasizes usability. It integrates automated deduction techniques in a non-obtrusive way in widely used software development tools so that typical industry engineers have the benefits of automated logic-based verification while still using tools and processes familiar to them.  

"SIRFUR also provides a flexible introduction of logical specifications and verification," Robby said. "This flexibility enables less-experienced users such as undergraduate students to use the tools in a simpler way to show their software is free from common errors, while also accommodating experienced engineers that need to specify and verify complex system behaviors."

SIRFUR handles complex software verification by taking advantage of the increasing availability of multicore systems, cloud computing and computer farms. It will also broaden the number of users and organizations that can apply automated verification techniques and will help these organizations develop more complex critical software with greater levels of confidence and at lower costs.

"In enabling innovations in the teaching of logic-based software verification," Hatcliff said, "it will build on current Kansas State University computer science interactive curriculum material that is being used for our undergraduate and graduate courses and at other universities in the U.S. and Europe.

"The award expands our existing computer science industry projects funded by the Department of Defense that aim to increase reliability and dependability of our nation's most important defense systems. It also elevates to new levels the department's emphasis on integrating state-of-the-art verification with innovative approaches to project-based learning in undergraduate education."

The SIRFUR grant complements recently awarded projects in the computer science department such as GUMBO, which will enable rigorous behavioral specification and analyses of software architectural designs for safety and security, and DARPA CASE that investigates a vertically integrated, cyber-resilient architectural design-to-implementation system engineering approach.


Robby, robby@k-state.edu
John Hatcliff, hatcliff@k-state.edu


Computer science department


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Robby, Kansas State University professor of computer science.

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John Hatcliff

John Hatcliff, Kansas State University distinguished professor of computer science.

Written by

Mary Rankin