Skip Navigation
Saturday, January 22, 2022 RSS Feed
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.

Faculty Member Max Albanese Earns Emerging Scholar/Researcher/Creator Award

Each year, George Mason University selects three faculty members who show exceptional promise in their disciplines to receive the Mason Emerging Researcher-Scholar-Creator Award. One of this year’s winners was Max Albanese from the AIT Department.

To qualify for this award and its $3,000 stipend, the faculty members must be within 10 years of receiving their terminal degrees and have growing national and international recognition for their work. The award’s selection committee is composed of University Professors representing a broad range of academic disciplines. “In the six years that I have chaired this committee, these were by far the most difficult decisions that the committee has had to make,” said Associate Dean for Research Peter Barcher.

Massimiliano “Max” Albanese, assistant professor in the Department of Applied Information Technology, grew up in Ariano Irpino, a small town nestled in Italy’s Apennine Mountains. He got his PhD from the University of Naples Federico II, one of the oldest academic institutions in continuous operation in the world.

Albanese acquired his first personal computer in his second year of high school, and immediately began to teach himself programing, which fueled his passion for finding algorithmic solutions to all sorts of problems. These days he is the Associate Director of the Center for Secure Information Systems and is guiding Mason’s role in a $6.25 million, four-university, joint research project on “Moving Target Defense” funded by the Army Research Office (ARO).

With his passion for innovation, Albanese also cofounded the Laboratory for IT Entrepreneurship, with the goal of promoting entrepreneurship in Information Technology across the Mason community and guiding student-led IT ventures from conception to launch.

An expert in computer security, Albanese spends a good deal of his time pondering the sort of security threats the rest of us have yet to imagine. Security strategy has made seismic shifts on a regular basis since 9/11. The mythic terror focused on “The bomb!” for the last half of the 20th century now scores lower on national security-threat radar than possible cyber attacks on high-level intelligence from hostile nations or terrorist groups.

A new generation of technology opened a Pandora’s box of possible threats. Albanese explained that the ubiquitous cloud-based technology that connects everything from smartphones to aircraft changed everything. “If you are working on your own computer at home, that’s one thing, but the minute you connect to the Internet – you let in the whole world,” said Albanese, who raised some interesting questions about the disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370 in March of 2014.

Albanese’s team is currently working on research that aims to secure the communication from inside and outside of cars, using a vehicle donated by Volkswagen. The impediments to autonomous (driverless) cars becoming a reality explained Albanese, “…are more legal than technical, and until they resolve those issues – it won’t happen.”

The average car has 40 to 60 ECU (Electronic Control Units), which means each that automobile contains a computer network with that many potential targets for hackers. So from messages that might be sent to shut down a car, for example, one can extract the scenarios that might occur with airliners or military vehicles, and that’s enough to keep you up at night. How do you counter these scary developments?

This is where the Moving Target Defense strategy, funded by the Army Research Office and the Office of Naval Research comes in to provide protection from many types of cyber threats, explained Albanese.

Moving Target Defense is far more complex than sliding side-to-side in dodge ball, but the principle is the same. Since no system can remain completely impenetrable forever, the strategy is to baffle and exhaust your opponent rather than attempt to build a rock-solid electronic fortress. The moving target defense strategy is about protecting systems that are comprised of hundreds upon thousands of servers and network devices.

For more information, view: