California State University, Los Angeles has been awarded a $380,000 grant from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to conduct research designed to improve cyber security.
Cal State LA will collaborate with NATO experts, as well as scientists from Italy, Israel, and Pakistan on the project.
“We are looking forward to collaborating with these partners to foster research, innovation, and knowledge in an effort to address today’s security challenges,” said Marina Mondin, who is the grant’s principal investigator and an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Cal State LA.
NATO’s Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Program has provided funding for a three-year period. The program also provides expert advice and support to security-relevant activities jointly developed by a NATO member and partner country.
“The research conducted at Cal State LA, in collaboration with other institutions, will help advance the field and lead to greater cybersecurity,” said Cal State LA President William A. Covino. “We’re pleased to be a part of this important effort.”
The collaborative research project focuses on the design and implementation of a practical Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) system between two major cities in northern Italy.
QKD uses quantum mechanics to exchange secret information. Quantum mechanics is the science dealing with the behavior of matter and light on the atomic and subatomic scale.
In QKD systems, individual photons are used to exchange cryptographic key data between a sender and a receiver. Each photon represents a single piece of data. After a key has been created, it can then be used to encrypt messages that are being communicated over an insecure channel.
It is the only known technique against cyberattacks that is secure based on the current understanding of laws of physics.
“QKD systems have reached a maturity level that allows their potential full realization and implementation for creation of a secure network backbone,” Mondin said. “The scientists at the Italian National Institute of Metrological Research (INRIM) are at the forefront of experimental research in the field of quantum optics.”
Quantum optics is a field of research that uses semi-classical and quantum-mechanical physics to investigate phenomena involving light and its interactions with matter at submicroscopic levels.
Researchers will also focus on the advancement of all related technologies for both fiber optics and free space optical systems. Free space optics is the technology associated with using a light source to wirelessly transmit data.
Mondin is an expert in signal processing for communications, modulation and coding, simulation of communication systems, and quantum communications. She has been associate editor for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Transactions on Circuits and Systems and has been a member of the technical-scientific committees of various international conferences.
Other researchers involved in the grant project include Marco Genovese, of Italian National Institute of Metrological Research, Torino, Italy; Shlomi Arnon, of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel; and Inam Bari, of National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences, Peshawar, Pakistan.
Over the past five years, the NATO SPS program has initiated 450 collaborative activities in more than 40 partner countries from cyber security in Jordan to defense against chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear agents, and energy security in Ukraine.
Photo: Marina Mondin is a principal investigator for the NATO grant and an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Cal State LA. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA)