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Belfast Secure IT Centre launch : RXP for crime & DNA profiles

Wednesday 23rd September 2009
Centre for Secure Information Technologies, Queen's University, Belfast.

The new £25m Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT), at Queen’s University Belfast, has been launched. Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Technology Strategy Board, Queen’s University Belfast and a range of partner organisations, some of its research projects will include power processors for safer internet surfing; CCTV to cut crime on public transport and combating computer viruses.

CSIT is unique bringing under one roof expertise in data security, network security, wireless network enabled and surveillance intelligence systems. Harnessing this CSIT will help pioneer ‘converged security’ IT systems to improve people’s physical security and protect systems from being hacked.
 
Professor John McCanny, principal investigator (right) at CSIT, says: “CSIT has an excellent technology platform based on world-leading expertise at the University and its Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT). Our starting points are mission-driven projects for which we have identified end goals. CSIT has a strong entrepreneurial ethos. We’re confident we’ll be able to fast-track development of marketable applications of our technologies to the benefit of UK industry and the wider economy.”
 
CSIT is one of the first Innovation and Knowledge Centres, (IKCs), to be established in UK. Ultra-powerful processors will make internet surfing much safer. Innovative content-processor technology  analyses internet traffic real time, enabling threat behaviour to be identified and stopped immediately.
 
Don't quite hold your breath, but in 3 to 5 years, groundbreaking computer hardware being developed at CSIT should make a major contribution to foiling cyber-crime and protect internet users from paedophiles, harassment and other online threats.
 
CSIT is working on new type content-processor technology that inspects and analyses internet traffic in real time, pinpointing risky or threatening online behaviour. Key to this will be the new processors’ capacity to process data between100<10,000 times faster than existing hard and software processing.
 
“Because conventional processor technology can only deal with information character by character, it’s far too slow to analyse internet traffic in real time,“ says project leader (left) Dr Sakir Sezer. “We’re developing parallel processors which can be scaled to process up to 32 characters (256-bit) at once, making real-time inspection of huge data volumes possible for the first time ever. Network providers will be able to install and use this to provide much better protection for internet users, as well as advanced user experience (quality of service), and efficient use/management of network resources.”
 
Dr Sezer’s team aims to optimise rulesets that enable processing hardware decisions, based on the nature of the internet traffic, as to which website requests to block, which word sequences indicate threatening behaviour, which traffic may be generated by malware, adware, spyware, botware and which unsolicited e-mails may carry damaging viruses, worms, or spam.
 
“The combination of next-generation content-processor technology and more sophisticated rulesets will improve internet security beyond recognition, ensuring more threats and attacks are prevented or mitigated at a much earlier stage,” says Dr Sezer. “Less online bullying and harassment, less identity theft, fewer viruses and less internet misuse in general for users to contend with.”
 
Dr Sezer’s team integrates expertise in internet traffic/threat mining; policy, ruleset definition; technology development and system-level security/network issues. They also work in close consultation with equipment manufacturers, security vendors and network operators in both UK and US ensuring projects meets market needs, to deliver real-world benefits as soon as feasible.
 
Intelligent CCTV analysis to cut public transport crime
Innovative  technology that automatically and accurately interprets behaviour in live CCTV feeds could be used  in around 5 years to help protect transport users from potential assault, theft and other offence by alerting CCTV control room staff that an incident might be about to occur, equipping them to intervene and prevent it.
 
Building on EPSRC-funded Queen’s Integrated Sensor Information System (ISIS) project, CSIT will advance in two key areas: increasingsophistication of tdata analysis which the system incorporates; and equipping the system with  AI needed to connect small-scale events, draw conclusions on significance and prioritise information displayed in CCTV control rooms.      
 
Designed for use on-board buses (right), system purpose is to automatically analyse video and audio information captured by every camera/sensor in a CCTV network , instantly relay  feeds judged most suspicious or threatening to screens in the control room.    
 
The controller then decides the actions to take. Options include: alerting the police car nearest the bus; sending the relevant feed to a small screen in the bus driver’s cab (so the driver can activate a recorded warning saying a police car is coming); linking the bus with the police car so police issue a warning via bus video screen; or the controller can speak directly tosuspicious individuals via the video screen.    
 
Massive CCTV systems investment across UK have had limited impact on crime prevention, mainly because CCTV control rooms are flooded with information from multiple cameras/sensors, making it difficult for controllers to pinpoint feeds showing situations likely to develop into criminal incidents.
 
“Our system will prioritise feeds but still ensure it’s the controller who makes the decisions as to what action to take,” says research director (left) Dr Paul Miller. “The system will instantly give every live feed a score, based on factors such as time of day, crime statistics for location, and threat assessment of the people shown. This score will determine where each feed is placed in the queue for the controller’s attention.”
 
Algorithms, software and hardware will play a vital role in the system.  Data is transmitted around the system via the internet,  so the team includes experts in secure ad-hoc wireless networking to ensure systems can cope with high moving data volumes and cannot be hacked.
 
The team works in close collaboration with the Applied Criminology Centre at the University of Huddersfield, headed by (right) Professor Alex Hirschfield, that is providing crime statistics for bus routes.    
 
“We aim to develop a system which helps to make crime-free buses, trains, stations and airports a reality,” says Dr Miller. “Ultimately it could be adapted to protect many other kinds of critical infrastructure too.”
 
New processor behind big benefits in combating computer viruses
A high-speed data processor that will provide unprecedented protection from internet-borne malware distributed by cyber-criminals. By 2010 a high-speed DP now coming to market, provides households and businesses with unprecedented protection from viruses and internet-borne malware.

Developed by Titan IC Systems, a Queen’s  Belfast spin-out company  with close links to CSIT, the Regular Expression Processor (RXP) or even better, (left) the Parallel String Matcher (PSM) is capable of investigating all internet traffic on PC or internet-linked appliance, identifying malware, spam etc with unmatched accuracy.
 
Unlike other anti-malware technology, the RXP analyses internet traffic in real time, allows customer network providers to describe characteristics of viruses they want to stop, as these may change. Both capabilities are key to improve the level of protection provided. Dovetailing with these is RXP’s capacity to process huge volumes of data very quickly, thanks to parallel processing.
 
It will cope with the massive explosion of internet data predicted and with growing demand for faster broadband speeds. “In the next few years, demand on the internet could grow ten or a hundred times over”, says (right) Dr Godfrey Gaston, Titan IC Systems’ CEO (Edinburgh University Microelectronics & Semiconductors PhD)
and CSIT director. “The RXP provides the processing power needed to analyse this tidal wave of data, thus providing a secure internet experience.”
 
Keeping viruses, worms, and spyware at bay is vital as the aim of malware is not just internet disruptive, but gathers personal, financial and other data on individuals and organisations, using it to commit fraud, identity theft and other serious offences.
 
The RXP is designed to be incorporated into internet routers and gateways operating at local exchange or street level. Smaller versions are planned for deployment in individual properties, delivering an "indepth defence' internet security solution.
 
Working prototypes of RXP are currently being evaluated by network equipment manufacturing companies, a product launch envisaged in 6-12 months. Each RXP will be customised to particular needs of each purchasing organisation. The RXP could also have potential applications in DNA profiling and such applications.    
 
“The link with CSIT will help the company stay right at the cutting edge,” says Dr Gaston. “Collectively, CSIT and Titan IC Systems provide a dynamic environment for KT and commercialisation of leading-edge ideas.”

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