Florida Center for Cybersecurity

Tampa, FL.—June 8, 2018—With support from the Florida Center for Cybersecurity, six students from the University of South Florida's (USF) College of Engineering have embarked on a yearlong internship to develop a state-of-the-art, cyber-ready safehouse. The result of an ongoing partnership between USF and SOFWERX, the internship is exploring the possibility of constructing a technologically savvy safehouse that employs the latest intrusion prevention, detection and deterrent technology to protect occupants not only from physical attacks but also from cyberattacks.

"The primary purpose of the project was to explore how data science techniques could apply to SOF operations," remarked Cameron Hunt, Chief Information Officer at SOFWERX. "A secondary purpose was to build and document an inexpensive 'kit' that SOF operators could employ in their training to practice integrating Cyber and Electronic Warfare attacks into their tactical scenarios," he explained. Five months into the project, the students already have constructed an impressive model with immediate applications for Special Operations Forces (SOF) use.

The project began with construction of a life-sized model of a standard safehouse, an environment used by both defense forces and insurgent groups around the world. The students outfitted the mock safehouse with night-vision cameras, motion sensors and other off-the-shelf surveillance technology—all relatively affordable and widely available. The team then integrated smart home technologies such as the Amazon Alexa and Google Home to create a fully connected smart home.

But they didn't stop there. The students integrated layers of cybersecurity to protect the device network and occupants' online activities from cyberattacks and added a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system to automate a Nerf gun that drops from the ceiling and fires when the system detects intruders carrying weapons. All these elements combine to create a truly "smart" safehouse—one that not only can adjust the thermostat, but also detect and block hacking attempts, monitor nearby social media, and detect intruders.

"Today, we fight wars in cyberspace," noted Sri Sridharan, Director of the Florida Center for Cybersecurity. "This project explores an important issue facing our military and law enforcement personnel: how can we leverage the sophisticated technology at our fingertips while securing that technology from those who would do us harm? It's valuable work with immediate applications," he said.

Using this training range, SOF operators can learn to implement these high-tech security techniques for both offensive and defensive scenarios. And because the students employed off-the-shelf technology and open source software, the range is affordable and easy to duplicate in a variety of training environments.

"I am very proud of the partnership that USF has established with SOFWERX, USSOCOM and the Florida Center for Cybersecurity," said Dr. Robert H. Bishop, College of Engineering Dean. "Our students are supporting groundbreaking cybersecurity research while gaining real-world, hands-on experience right here in the Tampa area," he remarked.

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About the Florida Center for Cybersecurity

The Florida Center for Cybersecurity is a state resource established to position Florida as a national leader in cybersecurity through education and workforce development; innovative, interdisciplinary research; and community engagement. Hosted at the University of South Florida, FC2 works with all twelve State University System of Florida (SUS) institutions as well as industry, government, and defense to create connections, build partnerships, capitalize on opportunities, and encourage collaboration. The Center hosts and sponsors events to engage diverse audiences throughout the year and administers funding programs that support collaborative research and cybersecurity programming at SUS institutions.

About SOFWERX

SOFWERX is a venue operated under an agreement between the United States Special Operations Command and Doolittle Institute designed to increase collaboration and innovation in order to solve the most difficult warfighter problems. SOFWERX is a forum for accelerating delivery of innovative capability. It is also a forum to facilitate capability refinement through exploration, experimentation, and assessment of promising technology. SOFWERX is in the heart of Ybor City, at a neutral, easily accessible facility.

Nathalie L., a digital forensics master's student at USF and intern at SOFWERX, manages the cyber range.