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Cleveland computer researcher wins National Science Foundation CAREER award

Angela Kervorkian-Wattle

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CLEVELAND, OH — Xusheng Xiao, a data scientist at Case Western Reserve University, was awarded $500,000 over five years by the National Science Foundation to research how computer and mobile-device apps may use consumers’ sensitive personal data, and then use that information to detect abnormal behaviors from hackers.

The National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Award, which he won, is the agency’s most distinguished grant for junior faculty members.

Xiao said the fund would assist him in generating more comprehensible language that reveals to users when and why specific apps are using their sensitive data in an instance.

“The key task is to develop techniques to analyze the behaviors from a large pool of popular apps that are considered benign,” he said. “Then we build a knowledge base of these learned behaviors, use that knowledge to detect abnormal behaviors and better describe and communicate those behaviors.”

Xiao desires to also blend the new tools into undergraduate and graduate education as well as increase public awareness of how crucial mobile app security is.

“We are honored to have a deep bench of early-career researchers gaining recognition on a national level,” said Venkataramanan “Ragu” Balakrishnan, the Charles H. Phipps Dean of the Case School of Engineering.

Balakrishnan remarked that many technology users who benefit from improvements in computer science are unaware of how using certain devices can expose their personal data — or how to protect that data.

“Xusheng’s innovative work addresses this critical shortfall by building better, stronger applications for these technologies, while also making technologies easier, more understandable and, ultimately, safer for the average user,” Balakrishnan said.

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