by Casey Scott
“It is in recognition of the contributions made by my research team, especially by my PhD students in SIS, and a result of close collaboration with researchers and practitioners in the healthcare and national defense sectors,” says Prof. Benjamin Fung of his 2015 appointment as Canada Research Chair in Data Mining for Cybersecurity.
Having come to Canada from Hong Kong at age 14, Prof. Fung obtained his BSc, MSc and PhD degrees in Computing Science from Simon Fraser University in B.C. and became a professional software engineer. He has been a member of the School’s faculty since 2013, where he teaches courses in data mining and information security and heads up the Data Mining and Security Lab.
His research involves analysis of emails to determine authorship, improvements to privacy protection of personal data, and data mining techniques to assist in cybercrime detection.
Finding patterns and associations in data has always been a challenge. With the increasing amount of data collected and stored due to advances in technological capabilities, innovative techniques are needed to mine these data to determine links and patterns. Data mining research seeks to discover new and efficient means of extracting information from the large volume of complex data available and make sense of this information.
Prof. Fung is currently developing a secure and privacy-preserving data sharing system in a cloud environment in collaboration with the McGill Department of Family Medicine. With his 12 years’ experience in this domain, he hopes to help healthcare agencies anonymize their data while maintaining effective mining capabilities for data recipients. Prof. Fung is working to provide practical and feasible techniques to safely anonymize data without sacrificing knowledge discovery. The growth of cloud environments requires extra care with respect to data encryption, adding an additional challenge to this project.
In related cybersecurity work, Prof. Fung and his research team are developing a large-scale assembly code mining system for malware analysis. Malware, such as viruses, trojan horses, and worms, are software pieces that intend to perform malicious activities on computers. In collaboration with Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), this pioneering work will automatically characterize and detect malware in a scalable manner to accommodate terabyte-sized assembly code repositories.
Further research interests lie in “strengthening cyber critical infrastructures in smart cities – where information technology is used to enhance the daily life of citizens.” Prof. Fung foresees the possibility of attacks on the cyber infrastructures and says that “to prevent this, we need to secure the critical cyber infrastructure, which has as a trade off the loss of individual privacy.” His goal is to achieve balance between security and freedom.