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While everyone ends up assured wireless devices are secure, doubts always tend to linger.

That is one reason why the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) is working on effective solutions to security threats on wireless devices. And that is why the National Science Foundation provided a $150,000 grant to help them.

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The grant’s principal investigator is Dr. Shucheng Yu, an expert in cyber security and assistant professor in UALR’s Computer Science Department.

Yu said the two-year grant addresses a paramount issue in an era in which billions of wireless devices are in use throughout critical sectors of American life.

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“Imagine if medical wireless devices, such as pacemakers, are wirelessly hacked? Or if a vehicle’s wireless device is controlled by malicious attackers via radio?” Yu asked.

“These scenarios were previously seen only on television dramas, but researchers have discovered hundreds such attacks, or even more severe, against real-world wireless devices.”

Yu’s idea is to enhance security using the first line of defense with wireless channel fingerprinting.

Analyzing “fingerprints” of wireless channels, Yu said researchers today can study the specific characteristics of a device to identify a unique cyber signature in much the same way detectives can identify a criminal by analyzing the patterns of an actual fingerprint.

Built on this foundation of fingerprinting available on all wireless devices, the project could lead to a game-changing security solution that will be compatible with billions of devices, Yu said.

The NSF grant comes through a branch of the foundation dedicated to supporting untested but potentially transformative work. Early-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) funding is a “high risk-high payoff” because it involves radically different approaches, applies new expertise, or engages novel disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspectives, according to the NSF website.

“This significant research project will provide a unique opportunity for students to learn techniques to defend against wireless cyber-attacks,” said UALR Chancellor Joel E. Anderson. “This is another way students are learning to provide innovative solutions for growing challenges.”

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