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Canadian group gets $2.2 million to research AI threat detection for wireless networks

A group consisting of Canadian university researchers and Ericsson Canada is the latest to have won government funding under the National Cybersecurity Coalition for advanced investigations into meeting cyber threats.

Researchers from Concordia University, the University of Manitoba, the University of Waterloo, and Ericsson said this week they will spend three years on a $2.2 million project looking into using artificial intelligence and automation to improve the security of 5G and future wireless networks. Of that, the partners are putting in $1.2 million, while $1 million will come from a government fund.

The goal is to develop intelligent anomaly detection, mitigation, and prevention mechanisms using machine learning and AI, to give mobile operators automated, closed-loop control security mechanisms that secure their networks against cyber attacks.

“We’re only at the start of 5G,” Paul Baptista, Ericsson Canada’s sales director and former lead of its Montreal site, said in an interview. “There’s going to be evolution of 5G over the next five years. What we’re doing is getting ahead of that by doing research before the releases come to bear around the world.”

Eva Fogelström, director of security at Ericsson Research, noted in an interview that the  company’s Montreal facility has been doing research on cybersecurity for years.

“This is a research project,” she said. “What we are looking at are new solutions and new methodologies for 5G and beyond.” Results of the research, which could be commercialized, will be published.

Azadeh Tabiban, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Manitoba, said in a statement that the industry-academia collaboration and funding support will enable building practical solutions that can be integrated with real-world environments. “Such a joint effort leads to more transparent and secure 5G networks, which increases the wider adoption of 5G-enabled technologies with cost-effective and life-saving benefits to our society.”

Ottawa has set aside $80 million for projects under the Cyber Security Innovation Network, a public-private initiative announced last year to support the growth of Canada’s cyber security ecosystem. The Coalition, made up of industry and academic members, selects the projects. So far, just over $11 million has been allocated for 20 projects, including $1 million for the 5G project.

The Ericsson group is not the only project looking at the use of AI. A group composed of researchers from Rogers Communications and the University of New Brunswick’s Canadian Institute for Cyber Security have been awarded just under $241,000 to see if AI can be used for vulnerability management.

Other groups are working on finding new ways of digitally fingerprinting customers’ behaviour to cut down on fraud, using what is called emotional AI to identify negative mood and distraction of car drivers, and finding ways of using quantum computing to improve the security of the computer hardware security modules that manage digital keys.

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