Improving Software Security: Michalis Polychronakis Earns $500k NSF CAREER Award


Professor Michalis Polychronakis

The National Science Foundation (NSF), one of the leading government research agencies in the American science realm, is once again demonstrating its support to computer science researchers at Stony Brook University through its Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER).

This time, Stony Brook Prof. Michalis Polychronakis has been named the latest recipient of this prestigious award. Polychronakis research proposal, titled “Principled and Practical Software Shielding against Advanced Exploits,” earned him a lofty grant of $500,000.

Polychronakis said, “I'm grateful, honored, and excited to receive the NSF CAREER award, as it will provide invaluable support for our team to continue our research on improving the security of the software we all rely on against the threat of vulnerability exploitation.”

The main objective of his proposed research is the design of innovative software hardening techniques, and their practical application to commodity software and systems.

Polychronakis’ work is motivated by the fact that “the exploitation of vulnerabilities in popular software is among the leading causes of system compromise and malware infection.” The exploits have hurt businesses and users in the past. But there is light at the end of the tunnel.

In the abstract, Polychronakis acknowledges attackers will keep discovering new exploitable vulnerabilities in widely used software, but principled software shielding technologies are a critical layer of defense against advanced exploits.

“Michalis’ work is a critical component of the department's cybersecurity research portfolio,” said Samir Das, chair of the Department of Computer Science. Das goes on to say, “His project will develop methods to protect IT systems even from very advanced forms of cyber attacks."

This CAREER research addresses difficulties already faced by existing protections by focusing on advancements in exploitation methods; creating principled protection mechanisms that will effectively undermine adversaries’ assumptions about a victim system and meaningfully reducing its attack surface; along with treating deployability and performance as core design principles to facilitate the practical applicability of the developed defenses.

About the Researcher:

Michalis Polychronakis is an assistant professor within the Stony Brook University Department of Computer Science. His research focuses on areas of network and system security, along with network monitoring and measurement. Polychronakis, who is a member of Stony Brook’s National Security Institute, received a PhD from Greece’s University of Crete in 2009. From there, he became an associate research scientist at Columbia University. He was also the Program Chair of the 14th International Conference on Detection of Intrusions and Malware & Vulnerability Assessment.

  • Joseph Wolkin