The SPIES research group, led by Prof. Nitesh Saxena, in the Computer Science Department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) conducts research on multitude of topics related to the security and privacy of “emerging” systems or paradigms. A computing and networking system is considered emerging if it has already started getting deployed in the real-world (albeit not to its fullest capacity), or is deemed promising for a wide-scale deployment in the near future. The security and privacy issues surrounding such emerging systems, however, may prevent end users from utilizing their full potential, or, even worse, may rule out the chances of their deployment in the future. Currently, these emerging systems range from mobile and wireless networks (such as those involving smartphones, wearables, IoT, sensors and RFID devices) to the Internet class of systems (such as web browsing, online social networks, and P2P).

The goal of the SPIES group is to improve the security of emerging systems, to say in short. With this goal in mind, the group is currently running many projects centered around the following topics:

  • Human-in-the-Loop Security: secure association of wireless devices, end-to-end encryption security, user authentication, including voice authentication, two-factor low-effort authentication, and behavioral biometrics, neuro-inspired or neurosecurity and extrinsically motivated or playful security.
  • Mobile Systems and IoT Security: security for smartphones, wearables, smarthome, medical implants and RFID tags.
  • Fault-Tolerant Distributed Security and Cryptographic Services: secure storage in the cloud, password management and multi-factor authentication.
  • Privacy and Anonymityside channel attacks/defenses, web search privacy, online social network privacy and location privacy.

SPIES is supported by multiple grants from NSF, DoJ, Google, Cisco, Comcast, Microsoft, Intel, Nokia and Research in Motion. The SPIES researchers consistently publish in top-tier conferences and journals in Computer Science. The SPIES graduates can be found spying around, and earning big bucks :-), in the premises of major software and research organizations, and top academic institutions in the US. The SPIES affiliates like to go by the tag line, “Spying for a Safer World.”

 The SPIES director, Nitesh Saxena, also co-leads UAB’s Center for Cyber Security, which is an NSA/DHS National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R)., and the lab works closely with other groups within the Department, at UAB and at other well-known places worldwide.