The McDermott Professorships were established in August 2017, funded by an anonymous gift, with the goal of providing early career support and recognition to faculty members who have established extraordinary records of research productivity, teaching excellence and university service, and who show promise of being leaders of the UT Dallas faculty in the future.
Dr. Alvaro Cárdenas specializes in computer security, cyber-physical systems, network intrusion detection and wireless networks. His research has focused on the development of a series of technologies, best practices and emergency response principles to protect systems and react quickly to computer invasions.
Cyber-physical systems collect information for a reason, like allowing the home resident to lower energy consumption. But I want to help this growing industry with guidelines on how to allow them to achieve their goal with the data, while at the same time minimizing this collection of data to only what is necessary.
For Dr. Alvaro Cárdenas, understanding the negative societal impact of attacks to critical infrastructures is a key component for risk management.
“We want to characterize the consequences of attacks in order to identify the right amount of resources to protect and respond to emergencies.”
Cárdenas received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award for his research on a cyber-physical system, or CPS, in which computers control physical processes, like modern vehicles, power grids or industrial control systems. He is especially interested in security and protection of cyber-physical critical infrastructures such as power grids, industrial control, smart manufacturing, water distribution networks, autonomous vehicles and transportation networks.
“An attack on a cyber-physical system will have an observable effect on the physical world,” he said. “So monitoring the physical system to identify anomalous behaviors and potential dangerous situations as soon as the attack begins can help mitigate the negative consequences of these actions.”
In addition, Cárdenas champions privacy issues, and has proposed ways to minimize the dangers of the unprecedented levels of data collection of CPS devices. For example, smart thermostats collect a variety of information about users, such as monitoring the times residents are in and out of the house, temperature levels and estimates of electricity consumption.
“Cyber-physical systems collect information for a reason, like allowing the home resident to lower energy consumption. But I want to help this growing industry with guidelines on how to allow them to achieve their goal with the data, while at the same time minimizing this collection of data to only what is necessary.”
Improving security on a wide scale comes in part due to Cárdenas’ studies in his home country of Colombia, and its response to five decades of attacks on its infrastructure. The country has been wracked with conflicts between the government, paramilitary groups and guerrilla groups.
Cárdenas holds master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a bachelor’s from Universidad de los Andes, Colombia. Before joining UT Dallas, he was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, and a research staff member at Fujitsu Laboratories of America in Sunnyvale, California.