Michalis Polychronakis is the recipient of a 2018 DARPA Young Faculty Award to support his project, Compiler-assisted Software Specialization against Vulnerability Exploitation. Polychronakis is an assistant professor in the Computer Science Department in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
The DARPA Young Faculty Award (YFA) recognizes “rising research stars” who hold junior faculty positions at academic institutions in the United States. Polychronakis’ award is valued at over $800,000 and provides funding needed to develop solutions related to national security.
“I’m grateful and honored to have our research work recognized by DARPA with this award. As part of this project, our team will investigate techniques that will improve the nation’s posture against threats posed by the exploitation of software vulnerabilities,” Polychronakis said.
According to Polychronakis, the use of the same operating systems by millions of people, as well as code bloat (code that is present but not really needed) facilitate vulnerability exploitation, which is a major cause of cyber attacks. The project objective is to enable self-specializing software that reduces its attack surface and shields itself against exploitation by taking advantage of hardware-assisted projection mechanisms.
The project focuses on protecting both current and legacy software plagued by vulnerabilities and exploits. The proposed approach relies on a number of technologies including code specialization and sensitive data protection.
“Michalis’ transformational work in security vulnerabilities is advancing solutions that directly impact one of the most important technological challenges of our time: cybersecurity,” said Fotis Sotiropoulos, Dean, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “I am grateful for his contributions, and privileged to have researchers of his caliber on our faculty here at Stony Brook.”
The DARPA YFA is the second major award Polychronakis has received this year. In early 2018 he received a $500,000 National Science Foundation CAREER award for his project, Principled and Practical Software Shielding against Advanced Exploits .
“The work under this DARPA YFA adds another level of innovation in the department’s steadfast pursuit of minimizing security issues,” said Samir Das, chair of the Department of Computer Science. Das adds, “It allows the department to continue as a leader in the field, in terms of discovery and education, and supports our team of researchers that work to improve the software security.”