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Ideas, Progress & the Future

Keeping data private in the era of the IoT

Protecting the privacy of individuals is integral to them buying into services related to the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning – and could prove a significant contributing factor to Australia’s economy remaining in the top 20 worldwide, says University of Canberra Assistant Professor Dr Mohammad Abu Alsheikh.

“The Australian Computer Society (ACS) and PwC Australia have both estimated that Australia could slip out of the G20 – the ACS saying this could happen as early as 2030, while PwC estimates it could be by 2050,” said Mohammad.

“Strong integration with the IoT could help to address this, as that would be the first step towards automation, which is crucial to the economy.”

The IoT is also enjoying rapid expansion, with projections that within two years, every individual will use at least four devices connected to it. “With this kind of growth, security ramifications must be considered,” said Mohammad.

This makes his project to propose novel privacy preserving schemes both exceedingly timely and future-focused. It speaks to contemporary concerns in the face of a wave of cybersecurity attacks on national organisations in recent years.

Mohammad, who works within the Faculty of Science and Technology, was recently announced as one of the three UC recipients of the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRA) and will receive funding of over $400,000 for his project.

The ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRA) provide a funding boost for promising research talent across Australia.

“I expect this project to develop schemes to effectively prevent attackers from being able to compromise individuals’ private data in the IoT and machine learning services,” Mohammad said. “This will in turn build trust and encourage the uptake of these services.”

“This research has huge potential in terms of benefits for the community, and will enhance security for industry, government and service sectors that collect individuals’ data.”

Mohammad added that there is also significant capacity for collaboration within the project and expressed his gratitude at being selected in the 2020 round of funding.

“The Australian Research Council DECRA will provide me with a great opportunity to expand on this valuable research,” he said. “It’s a very prestigious award, which will help me to get further established in the research game early on in my career.”

“I would also like to express my gratitude to the Research and Innovation Services department at UC, especially Manager, Funded Research Shubhra Roy and Advisor in Research Management Kate Lyall, for all their help with the ARC DECRA application.”

Mohammad has been with UC’s Faculty of Science and Technology since mid-2018. He was previously a postdoctoral researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States of America.

Prior to that, he conducted his doctoral dissertation at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, where he focused on optimising data collection in wireless sensor networks after graduating with a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Birzeit University in Palestine.

Mohammad also previously worked as a software engineer.

His broader body of work focuses on designing and creating novel IoT systems that leverage both machine learning and convex optimisation with applications in people-centric sensing, human activity recognition, and smart cities.

Words by Suzanne Lazaroo, photo: supplied

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