Michelle Mazurek Joins National Effort to Build a Secure Smart Home

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Assistant Professor Michelle Mazurek joins a national research project to build secure smart homes. The five-year project, funded by the National Science Foundation, focuses on increasing security and privacy of the tech products used in smart homes.

The project -- Security and Privacy in the Lifecycle of IoT for Consumer Environments (SPLICE) -- aims to develop new scientific understanding and novel engineering principles in order to help people to live in a trustworthy Smart Home and protect their privacy at the same time.

“We don’t think people who buy smart devices should be asked to make more and more decisions about privacy on those devices,” said Mazurek, who also holds a joint appointment in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies. “We’re looking at ways to provide tools to consumer advocacy organizations and journalists that will enable them to evaluate the privacy of devices and provide trustworthy information to the general public.”

For example, consumers should know what information is shared between their devices and the corporations that manufacture them, Mazurek said. They should also know how that information is collected, stored, aggregated and sold to data brokers.

“We want to make it easy for consumers to be smart about privacy and make informed decisions about which device to choose, but we also think our tools will motivate companies to make products that respect consumer privacy as well,” Mazurek explained.

In addition to Mazurek, the team includes ten researchers from Dartmouth College, Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, Tufts University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  and University of Michigan.

As a principal investigator on the team, Mazurek will be involved in developing tools that move away from the failed “notice and consent” model of privacy management, when a consumer is forced to ‘agree’ to an endless list of ‘terms and conditions’ written in legal language in order to gain access to a device or service. The goal of the team is to shift the privacy burden away from consumers, who are ill-equipped to manage an increase in the number of devices and decisions.

The SPLICE team plans to:

  • Develop the first-ever toolkit to discover, identify, and locate cooperative and non-cooperative smart devices within a home’s wireless network—allowing residents to have a complete understanding of their home’s technological environment; and
  • Identify privacy issues in smart homes that must be addressed to advance consumer trust—informing the development of best-practice principles for smart homes.

The project group will also develop programs for students, junior researchers, and community members to encourage more people from underrepresented groups to pursue careers in computing.

As the lead institution, Dartmouth College organized the program team and will coordinate its research and educational activities. 


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