Karthik Pattabiraman receives Killam Research Fellowship for Internet of Things Security and Reliability Research

UBC software engineer Dr. Karthik Pattabiraman was awarded the Killam Research Fellowship on April 5th, 2017. The Fellowship, which supports faculty to pursue full-time research during a recognized study leave, was granted to Pattabiraman in support of his research on the Internet of Things’ Security and Reliability.

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the massively interconnected network of embedded computing devices connected both to the Internet and to each other (such as infotainment systems in cars, smart phones, and home monitoring systems) that surrounds us. Pattabiraman sees the IoT’s potential to drastically improve quality of life and solve real-world problems, but he also acknowledges its current weaknesses. “The connected nature of IoT devices,” he says, “renders them vulnerable to accidental faults and malicious attacks”. While on leave, he plans to concentrate on augmenting IoT devices’ security and reliability.

In his research plan, he acknowledges the multiple unique challenges of this field: the wide array of IoT devices and frameworks, each presenting with different limitations and requirements; the lack of human decision-making available to mitigate the problems and ambiguities of IoT systems; and the hesitancy of device manufacturers to deploy expensive security techniques.

Pattabiraman will address these issues in a structured, three-directional manner during his study leave. In collaboration with researchers from Technische Universitat Darmstadt in Germany, he plans to assay formal (mathematical) techniques for modelling generic IoT devices and develop heuristics for formal verification. He hopes that this direction will enable the detection of many more bugs and vulnerabilities. Pattabiraman will also be building intrusion detection systems for use on IoT devices and developing diversity-inducing techniques to enhance device resilience.

In case that doesn’t sound like a sufficiently packed agenda, Pattabiraman will also be presenting talks about IoT security and reliability at other universities and research labs across North America and Europe. He sees the IoT as the “future of computing;” this research, then, is at the forefront of the future.