NSF grant to research Artificial Intelligence-Enhanced Cybersecurity

NSF grant to research Artificial Intelligence-Enhanced Cybersecurity

Professional photo of Brean Lagesse in a blue polo, smiling at the camera.The intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity is emerging as an important field to ensure the integrity of economic and critical infrastructure. Industry and government need more people with training in both AI and cybersecurity. Courses and workshops are being developed to meet this need, but there is no published work addressing the content that should be taught and how to teach that content in order to develop the needed workforce at this intersection.

Over the next two years, Associate Professor Dr. Brent Lagesse (picture to the right) in collaboration with Associate Professor Dr. Colleen Lewis from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will use $300,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant funding to research their project "Artificial Intelligence-Enhanced Cybersecurity: Workforce Needs and Barriers to Learning." 

Artificial intelligence to improve security

Cybersecurity is an enormous field that spans an entire lifecycle of software including design, implementation, deployment, and operations. “Within all segments of the lifecycle, there are opportunities to improve security, but frequently practitioners have neither the time nor resources to do any more than they are already doing,” Dr. Lagesse said. 

“Given the constraints on time and resources, the goal of AI-enhanced cybersecurity is to help practitioners be able to do more to secure their systems. For example, many of these tools are designed to help filter out irrelevant noise and assist practitioners with identifying real problems that they can solve to make systems more secure.”

The project will create and disseminate an AI-enhanced cybersecurity course and contribute new knowledge at the intersection of AI, cybersecurity, and education.

Identifying workforce needs

There is a gap in society's understanding of how to prepare the workforce to apply AI to problems in cybersecurity. Together they will work to identify workforce needs and develop solutions to learning barriers that could prevent broad participation in AI-enhanced cybersecurity. 

To identify workforce needs in AI-enhanced cybersecurity researchers will conduct interviews with industry experts and novices. This will drive the development of a course and the identification of gaps in existing cybersecurity curriculum frameworks. The hands-on course will serve as a testbed to identify key conceptual challenges, prerequisites, and compelling examples of AI-enhanced cybersecurity. 

Broadening participation

Researchers seek to identify opportunities to increase participation at the intersection of AI and cybersecurity. Better understanding how computing majors perceive courses and careers in AI, cybersecurity, and where the two overlap can inform efforts to broaden participation in AI-enhanced cybersecurity. 

This interdisciplinary collaboration better prepares the principal investigators and research students to engage in education research at the intersection of AI and cybersecurity. Students at the University of Washington Bothell will develop crucial skills in AI-enhanced cybersecurity courses to better prepare them to join the workforce.