Edge computing brings computation and data storage closer together to reduce the amount of data that needs to be sent to and from the cloud. However, while edge computing reduces some security risks by keeping data close to its source, it also introduces new security threats. 

Ning Zhang, assistant professor of computer science & engineering in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, won a three-year, $180,000 award from Intel to support work to assure availability of the Intel Trusted Edge Platform (TEP). Zhang brings his expertise in system security and national defense to this project focused on developing new theories and systems to protect the TEP ecosystem, including servers, network, algorithms and software.

“Edge computing is becoming increasingly important as we’re introducing more devices and applications that require data processing on-demand in real-time,” Zhang said. “Compared with cloud computing, edge computing boasts several advantages, including reducing latency and bandwidth costs while improving response times and overall system efficiency. These features are essential for applications like industrial automation, autonomous vehicles and health care, where the system must respond to changing conditions in real-time.” 

Zhang focuses on edge-enabled cyberphysical systems (CPS) – things like self-driving cars, implantable medical devices and robots – that are particularly vulnerable to security threats due to their continuous interaction with the physical world. To make sure these systems are secure, Zhang and his team are designing customized protections to maintain real-time system availability, even when the system is under attack.

As part of the project, Zhang will also develop course materials based on collaborative research. The new learning modules will support cybersecurity initiatives at WashU through the Center for Trustworthy AI in CPS and bring the latest technology into both undergraduate and graduate curricula.

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