November 22, 2023
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NSF awards $1.1M to UCSB for cyber crime research


UC Santa Barbara researchers have received $1.1 million from the National Science Foundation to study how cyber criminals exploit smartphone data and how such misuse can be deterred.

The funds will go toward research efforts spearheaded by UCSB computer science researcher Giovanni Vigna, director of the university’s Center for CyberSecurity at the College of Engineering. Vigna and a team of researchers will explore how smartphones are used to store the confidential information of millions of users and how this data use is now being manipulated for criminal activity, according to a press release from Congresswoman Lois Capps.

The relationship between users and their smartphones — as well as phone apps and app markets — will be modeled by these research efforts. Through these models, UCSB scientists will study how trust is misplaced with smartphones and how this creates an environment ripe for cyber crime. Vigna said the research efforts will also focus on the creation of new smart phone security mechanisms.

“The results of this research have the potential of impacting the life of millions of smartphone users, providing protection against attacks that might harm their well-being,” Vigna said in the statement.

The prevalence and versatility of smartphones makes them significant channels of information to study, Capps said. “People now use their smartphones and other mobile devices for shopping, banking, social networking, and other activities that can increase exposure to their personal information,” she said in a statement. “This important research at UCSB will help protect consumers and improve security of our smartphones.”