Researcher Lands Computer Security Grant from Air Force
Nov. 18, 2007
A University of Texas at Dallas researcher is one of just 29 scientists and engineers to receive a grant this year from the U.S. Air Force’s prestigious Young Investigator Research Program.
Kevin Hamlen, an assistant professor of computer science in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at UT Dallas, will continue his research into a promising new area of computer security under the three-year $350,000 grant.
The Air Force program is designed to bolster the careers of exceptionally promising scientists and engineers who have received Ph.D.'s within the last five years. Hamlen joined UT Dallas in 2006 after receiving his doctorate in computer science from Cornell University.
The root of computer security problems, he said, lies in the fact that most software being used today is written in programming languages that are inherently unsafe.
“It’s extremely difficult to write a program that does not have vulnerabilities in it, mainly because these languages were designed in the ’70s and early ’80s when nobody was thinking about computer security,” he said.
Safer languages have been developed since then, but transitioning to them takes time. So he and about 100 other people nationwide have dedicated themselves to the emerging field of language-based security. The technology automatically rewrites untrusted code before it’s executed, preserving a computer program’s functionality while effectively disabling any malicious code.
Hamlen has been working on the rewriting technology for several years, and he hopes the Air Force grant will enable him to develop the technology to work with larger applications and a greater number of computer architectures.
Hamlen is part of the UT Dallas Cyber Security Research Center, and his work complements and expands upon the center’s strengths in data security, according to Bhavani Thuraisingham, a professor of computer science and the center’s director. In addition to this award, she added, the center’s researchers have received recent research grants from the National Science Foundation, NASA, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and Raytheon Co.