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K-State Today

September 25, 2012

Taming the new Wild West: University cybersecurity expert selected for HP Innovation research program

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Nearly undetectable, cyber criminals have turned the Internet into virtual Wild West. Helping to save the day is Kansas State University cybersecurity expert Xinming "Simon" Ou.

Although he may not be John Wayne, Ou, associate professor of computing and information sciences, is developing hacker detection tools in collaboration with Hewlett-Packard Co., or HP, as part of the HP Labs Innovation Research Program. Kansas State University is one of only 46 universities in the world to receive the 2012 award.

"If a burglar breaks into your house, you can see them and call the police, but if a hacker taps into your computer, how do you know and who would you call?" Ou said.

For the 2012-2013 academic year, Ou will receive nearly $75,000 to fund his project, "A New Approach to Rigorous Risk Analytics Using Attack Graphs." This is the third consecutive year Ou has been selected for the program, making his combined total for the award more than $220,000.

Industry professionals who investigate cyber attacks on computer and network systems have collected large amounts of data related to cybersecurity. Since the data could reveal sensitive information, companies are very protective of it, Ou said.

"We haven't been able to solve many cybersecurity problems because the people with the data don't have the time or expertise to think about it, and the people who have the time and expertise don't have the data," Ou said. "The collaboration between industry professionals at HP and academic researchers is the key to making some meaningful contributions to the field."

Ou has worked in collaboration with HP since 2005 when he was finishing his doctoral dissertation research at Princeton University. His collaboration with the company continued as a postdoctoral research associate at Purdue University's Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security and as a research associate at Idaho National Laboratory.

"The past partnerships with HP have really helped me a lot in determining what problems are the most important and what kind of challenges do industry professionals face every day," Ou said. "I want whatever I do at Kansas State University to have an impact on industry and not just to produce publications."

Ou joined Kansas State University in 2006 and directs research for the cybersecurity research group, Argus. His work is primarily in enterprise network security defense with a focus on attack graphs, security configuration management, intrusion detection and security metrics for enterprise networks. In addition to the HP awards, Ou received the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early CAREER Development Award in 2010.