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Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

New project to develop ways to protect networks against fake content and cyberattacks

21 Mar 2024
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The UAB and the UOC, alongside INCIBE, have launched the joint DANGER project which aims to increase network security and reliability. Solutions will be generated to filter fake content or malicious content, protect the IoT and cybercurrency transactions and to improve the security of 5G networks.

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A team of investigators coordinated by the Department of Information and Communications Engineering at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and with the participation of the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) of the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), as part of the public co-funding project launched by the National Cybersecurity Institute (INCIBE), which depends on the Ministry for Digital Transformation and Civil Service, through the Secretary of State for Digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence, have launched the DANGER project which deals with cybersecurity for the detection, analysis and filtering of fake or malicious content in hyperconnectivity environments.  

The main aim of the two-year project is to improve network security through the use of tools that can analyse information and allow malicious elements to be identified and then filtered. The team will carry out high level research in specific areas of the field of cybersecurity, promoting its valorisation and transfer to society and the production sector, as well as its dissemination to different audiences.

“The project addresses the growing problem of digital threats such as disinformation and cyberattacks, which are significant risks to society. The propagation of fake content has weakened the confidence of institutions, while cyberattacks can result in the theft of sensitive data or cuts in vital services”, explains Professor Jordi Herrera Joancomartí from the UAB, who is the project coordinator. “The project also seeks to preserve the integrity of information in a digital world where it can be easily manipulated. By developing tools to detect and combat disinformation, our project promotes a more reliable and safer online environment where users can trust the information that they consume”.

The fight against disinformation

The DANGER project will generate solutions for the detection of fake information through machine learning with the aim of protecting social media users and the content creators from deepfakes. Blockchain technology will also be used to offer immutable traceability and transparency of data and transactions for the purpose of tracking data and verifying the authenticity and integrity of multimedia content. The watermarks and credentials of multimedia content generated using blockchain technology could be valuable tools for ensuring that authenticity and integrity and for increasing trust in digital media.

Protection against cyberattacks

The increase in ransomware has been associated with the appearance of cryptocurrencies as a method of payment of the ransom for the hostage data. Since it has become generalised the number of ransomware attacks has grown exponentially and the estimated losses caused by this type of malware are continually on the rise: in 2021 figures reached $20 million.

Making it more difficult to pay the ransom for data is a good strategy for reducing this kind of attack. To prevent the propagation of ransomware and reduce its effectiveness the researchers will analyse the cryptocurrency transaction systems to create tools that allow them to be tracked and any illegitimate uses detected.

“One of the main challenges in this project lies in the constant evolution of the threats. Any solutions that we are able to develop within the project has to be flexible and adaptable to rise to the new forms of disinformation and emerging vulnerabilities. The project also involves considerable technical complexity. Developing fake content detection systems, protecting against ransomware, ensuring security in cryptotransactions and other aspects involve the use of advanced technologies and complex technical concepts”, Herrera says.

Security in cryptotransactions

The use of cryptotransactions for malicious purposes remains a very small percentage in comparison with their legitimate use. This project will seek new solutions to protect legitimate users of these new payment mechanisms to invigorate and create growth in the digital economy. Payment systems quality will be analysed to provide the scalability, security and privacy that users require.

Security on the IoT

Connected devices such as sensors and wearables that make up the IoT are often very simple and do not implement effective security measures, making them more vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Throughout the project the investigators will develop systems detect, analyse and identify attacks in IoT environments. These systems use AI and machine learning techniques to continually monitor and analyse device network traffic. When suspicious patterns or anomalous behaviours are detected they can take preventative measures such as block malicious traffic or alert the user.

Security in 5G networks

Mobile connectivity using 5G networks means that there are new challenges for reliability and existing security measures may not be able to deal with them effectively. This project proposes the creation of a decentralised communications infrastructure using block chain technology with end to end encryption protocols that can guarantee confidentiality of the information travelling through the network.

DANGER is a joint project of the UAB and the UOC, coordinated by the UAB as part of the call for projects by INCIBE – the National Cybersecurity Institute. The working group at the UAB is coordinated by researchers from the Department of Information and Communications Engineering Jordi Herrera Joancomartí (who is also the project’s overall coordinator) and Cristina Pérez Solà; the working group at the UOC is coordinated by David Megías Jiménez and Helena Rifà Pous, who are members of the KISON research group of the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3). The project is funded by the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation and by a NextGenerationEU grant.

Global Programme for Innovation in Security

As part of the Global Programme for Innovation in Security, INCIBE has the specific mission to drive cybersecurity capacity in society and in the economy in general through a plan to promote and generate knowledge in the production sector, and in particular to establish synergies between the social and economic areas of cybersecurity. To do so in 2018 a programme of grants was launched for teams carrying out advanced research in cybersecurity. As a follow-up to this initiative on 5 December 2022 there was a public call for collaboration in the promotion of Strategic Cybersecurity Projects in Spain. These strategic projects offer a way to provide specific solutions to some of the biggest scientific and technological challenges in our society and in the economy. They aim to promote the application of research findings and innovation combining new forms of governance and collaboration as well as including the involvement of citizens and the social and production fabric.

This initiative is being carried out as part of the Spanish government’s Recovery and Resilience Plan financed by NextGenerationEU, which sets out the road map for modernising the Spanish economy, recovering economic growth and creating employment aimed at solid, inclusive and resilient economic reconstruction following the COVID-19 crisis, and to respond to the challenges of the coming decade.


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