(Jan. 22, 2019) – The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) has taken the top prize at an international competition for providing a better solution to detect malware using artificial intelligence. The AICS 2019 Challenge, organized and sponsored by the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, tasked researchers from around the world to devise a system that can classify several types of extremely harmful malware which have adapted to evade IT security measures and can remain undetected inside computer systems for years.
Shouhuai Xu, director of UTSA’s Laboratory for Cybersecurity Dynamics and professor in the UTSA Department of Computer Science, formed and led an international team that created a framework using deep neural networks to classify and detect the malware. The MIT Lincoln Laboratory made the challenge extra difficult because “white-hat” hackers had access to a limited training data set with an unbalanced number of malwares. Moreover, each competing team had to propose a real-world solution after being given access to the MIT testing data for just one week.
“The Challenge is as realistic as what a cyber defender would encounter in the wild, because little information about the ‘attacks’ is given to us,” said Xu. “This exercise mimics what happens in the real world.”
Malware remains a big threat to cyber security despite the tremendous countermeasures made by security organizations around the world. Close to 670 million malware variants are in cyberspace or at the disposal of hackers. What is more alarming is that the rate of malware that operates on unsuspecting computers has more than doubled since 2015.
“There is an urgency in solving the problem because computer malware writers are getting increasingly crafty so as to evade any existing detection system,” said Xu. “This is the reason the AICS Challenge exists—to find prototypes for real world solutions.”
Over 300 participants attempted to download and classify the malware data set provided by the MIT Lincoln Laboratory.
"We've held the event for the past three years, but this is the first time we've focused on adversarial learning and it's been the most successful," said William Streilein, Chair of the AICS Challenge and Group Leader of Cyber Analytics and Decision Systems – Group 58 at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory.
Xu with a cohort of cyber experts from Nanjing University of Science and Technology in China, West Virginia University and Florida International University proposed an adversarial training algorithm and a systematic framework to enhance the strength of deep learning that will detect adversarially and intelligently disguised viruses.
"Xu had the highest score in the challenge and a proposal that would serve as a really good paper," said Streilein.
UTSA’s Xu will attend the 2019 Artificial Intelligence for Cyber Security (AICS) event affiliated with the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) conference at the end of this month to receive the award and present the research.
“Winning this challenge means that we are in the right direction toward ultimately solving the problem of adversarial malware detection against some of the craftiest attackers in the wild,” said Xu.
UTSA is home to the No. 1 cybersecurity program in the nation, according to the Ponemon Institute, and has three Center of Academic Excellence designations in information assurance/cyber defense education, information assurance research and cyber operations from the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
Learn more about cybersecurity at UTSA.
Celebrate UTSA’s 50th Anniversary and share social media posts about the 50th using the hashtag #UTSA50.
The events are a collaborative effort between student organizations, student led-groups, and campus departments.Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
UTSA is a designated early voting site for the May 4 Joint, General and Special Election. Any registered Bexar County voter can skip the lines and cast a ballot at UTSA from Monday, April 22 to Tuesday, April 30.H-E-B Student Union (HSU 1.002), Main Campus
The Campus Master Plan task force and Page consultants will share the initial draft of the master plan.Student Union Retama Auditorium (SU 2.02.02), Main Campus
The Campus Master Plan task force and Page consultants will hold a series of meetings in late April and early May to share the initial draft of the master plan.Buena Vista Street Building Aula Canaria (BVB 1.328), Downtown Campus
In this UTSA 50th anniversary speaker series, Roger Enriquez, UTSA associate professor of criminal justice, explores how immigration past and present helps us understand its future.Casa Hernán, 411 Cevallos St., San Antonio
An evening of fine food and drink inspired by UTSA’s renowned Mexican Cookbook Collection. Proceeds from the event will support UTSA’s Mexican Cookbook Collection.Hotel Emma, 136 E Grayson St., San Antonio
Grab a friend and sign up to bowl with fellow Roadrunners and raise money for scholarships.University Bowl, 12332 I-10 #10, San Antonio
UTSA's first spring Commencement ceremony begins at 10 a.m., May 18 and honors graduates from the College of Liberal and Fine Arts and University College.Alamodome, 100 Montana St., San Antonio
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
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