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Restoring Trust in the cyber space: a Systems Security Proposal

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Europe nurtures ties with the United States to boost expertise in cybersecurity

Research expertise in cybersecurity is fragmented and the exchange of this knowledge is lacking. For Europe to remain at the forefront of such know how, it needs to foster collaboration with top-notch institutions in the United States.

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Over the years, Europe has created several world-class research centres in systems security with a significant publications track and innovation impact. Despite this, in terms of numbers, most top groups belong to the United States. The ability to collaborate with them will be a tremendous boost to Europe’s research capacity in security and privacy.

Helping to strengthen the European research ecosystem

To address this issue, the EU-funded PROTASIS project fostered transatlantic cooperation between leading European and American institutions in cybersecurity research. It also strengthened collaboration between research groups. “This was achieved through international and intersectoral exchanges of researchers within a network of research centres of excellence spanning both sides of the Atlantic,” comments project coordinator Evangelos Markatos. “We made it possible for promising early-stage researchers to cross-fertilise their ‘home’ institutions’ know-how and connections with other pre-eminent institutions across Europe and the United States.” “PROTASIS empowers a new generation of European researchers to tackle key problems in cybersecurity,” continues Markatos. Such issues include developing novel ways to protect applications against attacks and intrusions, addressing sensitive data leakages and privacy aspects, exploring hardware-assisted defences, and focusing on the upcoming Internet of Things (IoT) and associated embedded systems. Project partners carried out research over a broad range of current cybersecurity challenges. They looked into privacy and security issues related to advertisement and web tracking, as well as wider issues of privacy and anonymity on the web. Another large body of research dealt with cyber-physical systems and IoT security issues, particularly in critical domains such as automotive security and Industry 4.0. Much effort was also devoted to offensive security research, the development of new attack techniques with special attention to mobile security and hardware attacks, new exploitation mechanisms and corresponding security protection methods.

Reinforcing a pan-European network of excellent research

In addition, the PROTASIS team improved innovation and European expertise in cybersecurity through collaboration and knowledge transfer. In all, 20 face-to-face secondments between academia and industry and/or between the project consortium and world-leading teams at prestigious American universities were implemented, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia University. Work focused on three main pillars: cyberattacks, privacy and defences. Such efforts will contribute to the rise of the European cybersecurity industry, ultimately supporting the growth and competitiveness of the EU economy. Another very important tangible benefit was the creation of long-lasting links between European and American research groups. Most of these exchanges have generated ongoing publications and led to joint work. “PROTASIS should help European citizens restore their trust and confidence in cyberspace, both of which have been significantly challenged in the past few years,” concludes Markatos. “By developing tools and methods that protect common applications and devices, people will have more faith in systems they constantly use, while addressing their concerns about the protection of fundamental human rights.” This research was undertaken with the support of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie programme.


PROTASIS, security, cybersecurity, privacy, United States, researcher, research centre, defence

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