In another sign of the growing importance of STEM-related fields, Morgan State University recently announced the creation of its first endowed professorship focused on science and technology.MorganStateUniversityLogo-300x296

Kevin T. Kornegay, a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Morgan State, has been named the endowed chair in Internet of Things Security. The position was underwritten with a $1 million grant through the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative, or MEI, and a matching $1 million investment from a private donor.

The MEI program was established by the Maryland General Assembly in 2014 and is administered by the Maryland Department of Commerce. It encourages research by matching private funds in support of endowed chairs at the state’s universities and colleges.

“Maryland should be applauded for setting aside funds to advance cutting edge research and innovation and we are proud to partner with the state in this effort,” Morgan State University President David Wilson said in a statement. “We believe this program shows great promise for higher education’s ability to help the state find solutions to some of our most challenging issues and cyber security is certainly one of those issues. The Internet of Things, which is the focus of Morgan’s research with this endowed professorship, is the next major frontier on the cyber security horizon. It is one of the critical areas that will dominate our future.”

The Internet of Things is the “computerization of everything in our lives” and their interaction through networks, Bruce Schneier, security technologist and CTO of Resilient Systems and New York Times best-selling author of “Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World,” explained in a recent Forbes article. Examples of Internet of Things devices include smartphones, gaming consoles, smart power thermostats, light bulbs, refrigerators, and cars which collect data about us and our environment then respond to affect our environment.

Schneier called the Internet of Things a “world-sized robot” that will change the world as we know it.

“By and large, [it] will be a benign robot. It will collect data and do things in our interests; that’s why we’re building it,” he said.  “But it will change our society in ways we can’t predict, some of them good and some of them bad.”

One of the more negative aspects of this world-sized robot is the threat posed by hackers and other criminals. That is the menace Morgan’s research will address.

“As the IoT continues to evolve, the number of ‘things’ and the upstream of data associated with them presents new security challenges,” said professor Kornegay, whose expertise lies in cyber security, reverse engineering, hardware assurance, secure embedded system design and other areas. “Our research will make the devices more secure and self-aware with the ability to thwart a physical cyber attack.”