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Volgenau School of Engineering
The B.S. in Information Technology degree program is accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET,

George Mason University is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense Research and Education.

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Research Projects

Faculty in the department participate in a number of funded research projects. The list below provides a sampling:

A Laboratory for Moving Target Defense Using Mutable Virtualized Large-Scale Network Containers

Project Description: The objective of this project is to build a large-scale computational infrastructure to develop, deploy, and evaluate scalable, dynamic, and adaptive security mechanisms that combines virtualization, emulation, and mutable network configurations to thwart an attacker’s reconnaissance effort. This infrastructure will be built as a multi-purpose reconfigurable test range via virtualization to support a wide range of network topologies and configurations typically found in enterprise networks.

Research Area(s): Cyber Security, Moving Target Defense, Virtualization

Participants: Sushil Jajodia (IST, CSIS) and Massimiliano Albanese (IST, CSIS)

Funding: Office of Naval Research Award # N00014-13-1-0703

Adversarial and Uncertain Reasoning for Adaptive Cyber Defense: Building the Scientific Foundations

Project Description:  The primary objective of this project is to build the scientific foundations of a new approach to cyber defense that aims at increasing the complexity for attackers. Today’s approach to cyber defense is governed by slow and deliberative processes such as security patch deployment, testing, episodic penetration exercises, and human-in-the-loop monitoring of security events. Adversaries can greatly benefit from this situation, and can continuously and systematically probe target networks with the confidence that those networks will change slowly if at all. In order to address this important problem, we propose adaptation techniques to engineer systems that have homogeneous functionalities but randomized manifestations. Homogeneous functionality allows authorized use of networks and services in predictable, standardized ways while randomized manifestations make it difficult for attackers to engineer exploits remotely, let alone parlay one exploit into successful attacks against a multiplicity of hosts. Ideally, each compromise would require the same, significant effort by the attacker.

Research Area(s): Cyber Security, Moving Target Defense

Participants: Sushil Jajodia (IST, CSIS) and Massimiliano Albanese (IST, CSIS)

Funding: Army Research Office Award # W911NF-13-1-0421

CAREER: Investing Global Engineering Work Practices to Prepare 21st Century Engineers

Project Description: This engineering education research project advances fundamental knowledge of how professional engineering practices have changed due to globalization and how this has impacted engineers in the field. The research contributes to theoretical development in the area of global engineering education and provides an intellectual foundation to develop pedagogical resources to prepare globally competent engineers.

Research Area(s): Engineering Education, Global and International Issues

Participants: Aditya Johri (IST)

Funding: NSF CAREER Award#0954034


Data Ecosystem for Catalyzing Transformative Research in Engineering Education

Project Description: This project will develop a data ecosystem for the EER community and bring together two major areas — engineering education and data sharing cyberinfrastructure (i.e. “big data”). This research will (a) Understand the culture of data creation, exchange, and use that exists within the community of engineering education researchers as well as the consumers of this research; and (b) Identify a promising collection of available data sharing mechanisms to seed an initial development effort and present guidelines for the uptake of identified mechanisms.

Research Area(s): Engineering Education, Data Sharing

Participants: Aditya Johri (IST) and collaborators from Purdue University

Funding: NSF#1408674


Deep Insights Anytime, Anywhere (DIA2) – Central Resource for Characterizing the TUES Portfolio through Interactive Knowledge Mining and Visualizations

Project Description: This TUES Central Resource Project is designed to help those engaged in improving STEM education to synthesize knowledge produced through NSF investments through a web-based knowledge mining and interactive visualization platform. The Deep Insights Anytime, Anywhere (DIA2) project allows users (e.g., current and potential principle investigators, NSF/TUES program staff, and administrators at academic institutions) to interactively mine, synthesize, and visualize data at a scale that is not possible with currently available tools. The project has three major goals: (1) Empower the TUES community to leverage TUES investments by understanding the knowledge hidden within its networks; (2) Develop and apply cutting-edge, large-scale knowledge mining and visualization techniques for characterizing the portfolio of TUES and predecessor programs; and (3) Leverage social media optimization and integration to catalyze diffusion of TUES innovations, build a community and sustain the project impact. DIA2 enables users to explore massive amounts of data and make sense of it using a highly intuitive process. The system development approach combines theories of user-centered design, large-scale data mining, community formation, social network analysis, and interactive visualization.

Research Area(s): Data Analytics, Knowledge and Expertise Identification

Participants: Aditya Johri (IST), Carlotta Domeniconi (CS) and collaborators from Purdue, Arizona State and Stanford

Funding: NSF#1444277


Information Technology Entrepreneurship

Project Description: This initiative encompasses an array of activities aimed at encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship in Information Technology across the Mason community and guiding IT ventures from idea to launch. Teams of student entrepreneurs, guided by academic mentors, work on developing innovative solutions to real-world problems and towards the creation of their own startup companies.

Research Area(s): Innovation, Entrepreneurship

Participants: Massimiliano Albanese (IST) and Mihai Boicu (IST)

Funding: Multiple awards from VentureWell (formerly NCIIA) and Northrop Grumman Corporation.


Learning Data Analytics: Providing Actionable Insights to Increase College Student Success

Project Description: The objective of this project is to develop new computational methods to analyze large and diverse types of education and learning data to help (a) discover successful academic pathways for students; (b) improve pedagogy for instructors; and (c) enhance student persistence and retention for institutions. The project outcomes are designed to help students select courses that fit their needs, capabilities, and learning styles, and are likely to lead to (faster) graduation; help instructors to better meet student needs; and give advisors and institutions the analytics needed to improve retention and persistence. Research will coalesce into three pilot applications: DegreePlanner for students, CourseInsights for instructors, and StudentWatch for academic advisors.

Research Area(s): Big Data, Learning Analytics and Educational Data Mining

Participants: Aditya Johri (IST), Huzefa Rangawala (CS, Project PI), Jaime Lester (Higher Education) and collaborators from University of Minnesota

Funding: NSF#1447489


Mission-Centric Operations within Vulnerable Networks

Project Description:  The objective of this project is to develop the capability of securely operating critical missions within vulnerable network. In order to achieve this innovative capability, we look at the problem from different angles and identify several important and interrelated sub-problems.  Specifically, we aim at addressing three important problems that have not been studied before in the cyber security domain, namely, Best Path Selection, Static and Dynamic Path Protection, Dynamic Mission Rerouting. These problems are inherently complex, and exact solutions cannot be computed efficiently. However, in order to offer resilient support to mission-centric computation, it is imperative to acquire the capability of making security decisions in real-time. To this aim, we are developing approximation schemes to find suboptimal solutions in a time-effective manner.

Research Area(s): Cyber Security, Network Hardening

Participants: Sushil Jajodia (IST, CSIS) and Massimiliano Albanese (IST, CSIS)

Funding: Office of Naval Research Award #N00014-12-1-0461

Modeling and Analysis of Moving Target Defense Mechanisms in MANET

Project Description:  The objective of this project is to develop an analytical framework for designing, modeling and analyzing deception mechanisms against reconnaissance in MANETs. Our key insight is that the data gathered by the adversary can be decomposed into information about (i) the nodes, (ii) the network protocols used, and (iii) the overall network topology. We then design novel deception mechanisms for each of these components and analyze our mechanisms within a game-theoretic framework.

Research Area(s): Cyber Security, Moving Target Defense

Participants: Massimiliano Albanese (IST, CSIS) and collaborators from University of Washington and College of William and Mary

Funding: Army Research Office Award # W911NF-12-1-0448

TILES: Trajectories of Informal Learning among Engineering Students

Project Description: This engineering education research project seeks to understand how learning experiences outside of formal learning environments contribute to engineers’ education, and how such experiences can be meaningfully assessed and credentialed.

Research Area(s): Learning Sciences, Engineering Education, Learning Analytics

Participants: Aditya Johri (IST), Khondkar Islam (IST), Lori Bland (Educational Psychology)

Funding: NSF#1424444