Hu builds defense against attacks on Internet of Things devices

4/2/2018 August Schiess, Coordinated Science Lab

Written by August Schiess, Coordinated Science Lab

Cyberattacks on Internet of Things devices are happening with greater frequency than ever before. A particular attack, called Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack, is an especially difficult attack to thwart and can be powerful enough to shut down large websites. CSL researchers received a grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a technique to stop these attacks.

Yih-Chun Hu
Yih-Chun Hu
DDoS attacks happen when hackers send large amounts of data through the Internet to a single destination, overpowering the servers and shutting them down. Internet-connected devices have a limited capacity for information, and attackers can very easily fill that capacity.

CSL Professor Yih-Chun Hu and his team have proposed a technique called Middle Police—a name indicative of its function. The middle police approach puts a roadblock between the attacker and the device and diverts information traffic into two categories, prioritizing good flows and deprioritizing bad flows.

“We’re building a new approach for filtering out these DDoS attacks that is efficient, economical, and readily deployable,” said Hu, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

With the $500,000 grant, the team hopes to develop better prioritization practices—meaning the middle police technique makes appropriate decisions for good and bad traffic. They hope to make an approach that separates the traffic automatically, as well as an approach that gives control to the user to identify good and bad flows specific to their organization.

“This research will expand the middle police technique to make it more secure, more effective at catching obvious DDoS attacks, and more robust against powerful adversaries,” said Hu.

Hu envisions this approach could be deployed to organizations to install on their devices and systems to help protect them against attacks. His team aims to investigate whether deploying the approach based on economic incentives rather than relying on altruistic motivations will encourage more users to adopt these methods.  

Hu, who is also affiliated with computer science, worked with Zhoutao Liu, who graduated with his PhD in electrical and computer engineering at Illinois and is now a visiting scholar of CSL.

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This story was published April 2, 2018.