Tech cybersecurity duo recognized for data research | News, Sports, Jobs – Daily Mining Gazette

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Photo courtesy of Michigan Technological University
Bo Chen, left, and Niusen Chen are co-recipients of Michigan Technological University’s 2024 Bhakta Rath Research Award for their work in cybersecurity.

HOUGHTON — Have you ever wondered what happens when you delete something from a phone, tablet, or computer? You may be convinced it’s gone forever. However, this isn’t always the case. Michigan Tech’s Bo Chen and Niusen Chen are working to change this. 

The pair won Michigan Technological University’s 2024 Bhakta Rath Research Award for their work ensuring information on mainstream mobile devices can be stored securely and deleted permanently. The Bhakta Rath Research Award was founded in 2010. It is presented to a graduating Michigan Tech doctorate student and faculty advisor “who have done something valuable for American industry and society.”

Faculty and doctoral students are encouraged to undertake research that fills a need in our nation and combats the challenges of emerging technologies. 

Bo Chen is a cybersecurity expert and an associate professor of computer science in Michigan Tech’s College of Computing. He also directs Tech’s Institute of Computing and Cybersystems Cybersecurity Center. Chen served as an advisor to Niusen Chen, a research assistant professor who finished his doctoral work in 2023.

The powerful duo, along with researchers who collaborated with them, are the first to develop the capability for plausibly deniable encryption, or PDE, for everyday computing devices. They also addressed sensitive data remnants that can exist in flash storage and resist normal secure deletion techniques. Flash storage is a type of memory that can hold on to data even when power is off. It’s used in devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers. It can also be found in flash drives and wearable devices such as smart watches. 

The pair created what they described as a “fresh secure deletion capability for mobile devices that meticulously manages these remnants, guaranteeing the complete and irreversible removal of confidential information from mobile devices”. In non-tech-wizard terms, they developed a way to thoroughly remove deleted files from devices and keep said files from hanging around somewhere in the background. 

Bo Chen and Niusen Chen’s project, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, received plenty of praise. Weisong Shi, who has worked with the duo since 2019, predicts the research will “greatly contribute to national security efforts, given the high demand for secure data deletion in critical sectors, including federal agencies.” 

Many wonder where the idea for such ground-breaking research came from. In a Q&A with Michigan Tech News, Bo Chen explained, “I have been working on data security research since I was a doctoral student. When I became a faculty member at Michigan Tech, I started to explore the unique technical challenges of data security faced in emerging mobile computing devices. This research is becoming more critical, as mobile computing devices are now extensively used to process personal and mission critical data, while cyberattacks on these devices have significantly increased in recent years.” 

Niusen Chen claims his motivation behind the research came from being “interested after seeing how cyberattacks can affect everyone, from small businesses to big governments. I want to help find ways to stop these attacks and keep our information safe.” 

Niusen’s efforts were highly praised by his advisor, Bo, who called him, “a smart, diligent, and reliable student…I am confident that he will be very successful as a faculty member and a cybersecurity researcher in his future career.” Nuisen Chen will soon move on to a position at a university in Wisconsin.

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