Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) under Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), along with Turkish company Universal IT Security (UITSEC), have been awarded a US$1.65 million grant to build a new defensive cyber intelligence platform.

The grant was announced recently during the Annual Research Conference 2018 (ARC’18) at Qatar Foundation by the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) and the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK).

QCRI and UITSEC will use the funds over the next two years to build a defensive platform called WARNING. The platform will be able to detect emerging cyberattacks against enterprises and critical infrastructure.

Dr Issa Khalil

QCRI Cyber Security department’s principal scientist, Dr Issa Khalil, who is leading the Qatar side of the collaboration, said that the new platform will use different data sources to produce cyber security intelligence at various stages before and during a cyberattack.

As well as combating traditional threats, WARNING will focus on protecting against previously unknown threats as well as targeted multi-stage threats that stay undetected for prolonged periods.

WARNING includes techniques that will go beyond the current state-of-the-art security mechanisms in place, based on the unique insights and experiences from the industrial and academic partners of the project.  It will ingest big security data from various sources related to enterprises and critical infrastructure, and then produce timely and actionable intelligence.’

Dr Khalil and his group have previously undertaken research in detecting and predicting malicious domains through passive DNS (domain name service) data analysis. In 2016, they invented a tool to identify malicious domains by using a real-life ‘guilt-by-association’ principle.

The WARNING proposal was one of two winning projects for the ARC’18 grants selected from 13 submissions.

For more information and updates about WARNING, visit the QCRI website at qcri.org.qa.