Canadian university receives grant to boost cybersecurity research


The five year research grant was awarded to the university by the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Mourad Debbabi, the Concordia University research chair in information security systems said that this project is “of paramount importance.” [NIST releases IoT cybersecurity guidelines]

He adds: “There are vulnerabilities and threats that can lead to major consequences.”

Debbabi will lead a team of some 25 researchers, working along industry co-sponsors Hydro-Québec and Thales, to lead the charge in what is still an emerging area of cybersecurity.

Debbabi said that the goal will be to make the smart grids of the province’s power supplier more secure.

“This is happening, it’s already a concern,” he said in an interview after the official NSERC announcement Thursday.

Mitigating malicious attacks

“Cybersecurity is something that interests us a lot,” said Jérôme Gosset, general manager of IREQ, Hydro-Québec’s research institute, acknowledging that Hydro-Québec’s system is becoming increasingly automated and that integrating more intelligence into the network does mean increased cybersecurity challenges.

“Ensuring continuity of service is important to us,” he said. [DoE issues funding for cybersecurity R&D]

Debbabi added that it’s important to understand as much as possible about the “threat landscape.” Research done by Concordia University will focus on prevention as well as how to detect, mitigate and recover from such attacks.

Siegfried Usal, vice-president of strategy for Thales, said the partnership with Concordia will allow the cybersecurity company to explore more ways of guaranteeing “network resilience in the face of emerging threats.”

Concordia is reported to have seven full-time faculty members with expertise in cybersecurity.

The grant will cement Concordia’s leadership in a new area of research, Debbabi said, and will improve the overall security of Quebec’s power system.