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UB faculty part of partnership to accelerate AI security for Department of Defense

Concept of AI security featuring a padlock composed of d data network.


Published May 30, 2024

“This project is part of a critical push toward securing AI models that may be vulnerable to a wide range of attacks. ”
Sanjukta Smith, chair and associate professor
Department of Management Science and Systems

Four UB faculty researchers will serve as key members of a new $1.8 million initiative to secure the U.S. Department of Defense’s most critical artificial intelligence models while also accelerating the technology’s commercialization in the private sector.

Siwei Lyu, SUNY Empire Innovation Professor of computer science and engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, will serve as principal investigator. And, from the School of Management’s Department of Management Science and Systems, Kyle Hunt, assistant professor, and Sanjukta Smith, chair and associate professor, will serve as co-principal investigators; Dominic Sellitto, clinical assistant professor, will serve as senior personnel on the project.

The four faculty members will work with security for AI firm HiddenLayer as part of an effort by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and AFWERX to use AI detection and response to manage critical issues in the Department of Defense. Abigail Maines, BS ’97, MBA ’99, chief revenue officer at HiddenLayer, will serve as main point of contact with the organization.

AFWERX is the innovation arm of the U.S. Air Force and a directorate within the Air Force Research Laboratory that brings cutting-edge American ingenuity from small businesses and startups to address the most pressing challenges of the Air Force. HiddenLayer was awarded the $1.8 million Phase II contract through AFWERX’s Small Business Technology Transfer program.

“This project is part of a critical push toward securing AI models that may be vulnerable to a wide range of attacks,” says Smith. “These models are used in many real-world settings, such as classifying images or identifying fraud, and there is a specific set of attacks that can cause them to misclassify, which can wreak havoc when they are deployed in the wild.”

The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for the U.S. air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 12,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development.

AFWERX employs approximately 325 military, civilian and contractor personnel at six hubs and sites executing an annual $1.4 billion budget. Since 2019, AFWERX has executed 4,697 contracts worth more than $2.6 billion to strengthen the U.S. defense industrial base and drive faster technology transition to operational capability.

HiddenLayer is the leading provider of security for AI. Its security platform helps enterprises safeguard the machine learning models behind their most important products.