New UVic centre focuses on cyber-security and privacy

- Maria Lironi

Reliable, safe and secure—that’s what we expect from our information technology systems. Yet every day we hear stories of cyber-attacks and privacy breaches. A new UVic centre aims to change that by conducting advanced research on cyber-security and privacy of IT systems.

UVic’s Centre for Advanced Security, Privacy, and Information Systems Research (ASPIRe) is one of the first research centres of its kind in Canada. A uniqueness of the centre is that it places security, privacy and information systems under a single umbrella⎯as research in each area innately informs research in the others. Within the centre there is also a strong understanding that cyber-security and privacy cannot be addressed solely from technological perspectives. Domains such as legal, business, public policy and psychology all have critical roles to play, and a core goal of the centre is to foster and develop these important wider collaborations.

Dr. Stephen Neville (engineering) is ASPIRe’s director. “Canada, as with all modern societies, has come to heavily depend on larger-scale information systems for many services, including social networking, banking, health care systems and critical infrastructure systems,” he explains. “With our increased reliance on these systems has come a growing expectation that they’ll perform as promised, be reasonably secure and protect our private information. These issues are complex and require collaborative efforts across academia, industry and government to address.”

The ASPIRe Centre has direct collaborations with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Internetworked Systems Security Network Strategic Network⎯Canada’s national cyber-security focused research network, in which Neville is also a founding member.

The BC government has provided $180,000 in grants towards the creation of the centre.

“The Government of British Columbia has been particularly prescient in understanding the importance and complexity of these issues and has provided the opportunity to create the ASPIRe Centre as a framework to bring together academic researchers, industry partners and government collaborators,” says Dr. Howard Brunt, UVic’s vice-president research. “As a result, improvements can be made to the real-world systems and processes upon which we, as Canadians, increasingly depend. ASPIRe will also be instrumental in helping to produce the highly skilled graduates in these areas that Canadian industry and governments are actively seeking.”

The ASPIRe Centre membership currently spans 19 regular faculty from within the Faculty of Engineering's departments of computer science and electrical and computer engineering. Each centre member works or has research interests in the one or more of ASPIRe’s core security, privacy and information systems themes. These members possess substantial federal and provincially funded research facilities and have numerous active research projects, including industry collaborations spanning the gamut from start-ups through to multinationals. They have a strong interest in exploring and establishing new collaborative opportunities with interested industry, government and academic partners, whether in engineering domains or with experts in the relevant non-engineering fields.

Centre membership is open to all regular faculty, and associate membership is open to those without regular appointments.

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Keywords: security

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