UVa Researchers Awarded $40K Grant to Fight Online Hacking

March 19, 2013

A group of researchers at the University of Virginia is the recipient of a large grant that the three will use to help protect every website in the world.

UVa. scientists Anh Nguyen-Tuong and Jason Hiser of the computer science department are joining professor Jack Davidson in making the Web a safer place.

"We are instrumenting websites," Hiser said. "We are adding extra code to websites."

The code, or foundation of a website, will prevent hackers from accessing specific data. The data could include users' personal information, like passwords, health records or credit card info.

"Basically any website that is interesting these days stores valuable data about you," Nguyen-Tuong said.

The team just received a $40,000 grant from the Virginia Innovation Partnership. Now, the three have the money they need to develop their code further.

"This was somewhat of a eureka moment," Hiser said. "It was kind of one of those moments where the second it was said, we just kind of knew it was going to work. It's taken us some time to get the funding and the opportunity to work on it, so we're pretty excited about it."

The codes the researchers developed can theoretically be used on any website. They already have a preliminary prototype, but now they need to test it.

"What we really need to do is get it out in the real world and talk to some companies that have websites and see if it is actually effective at stopping hackers," Hiser said.

"Lots of people try to develop web applications very quickly, and so the big pressure is on time to market and not necessarily security," Nguyen-Tuong said.

The group already has a patent pending to hold the idea and the technology behind its anti-hacking initiative while the three continue to work on the project of protecting every website.

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