A team of researchers from UNSW has secured $1.3 million in funding to help protect Internet of Things (IoT) devices from cyber threats.

The start-up, named CyAmast, is led by Dr Hassan Habibi and has been spun-out from the UNSW Sydney School of Electrical Engineering & Telecommunications to “facilitate the co-existence between robust cyber-security and connected devices”.

It has developed technology that protects IoT devices by inspecting ‘packets’ of data to determine threat signatures.

Using artificial intelligence, the CyAmast software creates a model of a device’s expected behaviour.

This means as soon as there is any deviation to what is expected, the device can be quarantined to protect the network from a significant breach.

Dr Habibi said the technology has been developed as a result of the current limitations to IoT security technology.

“Traditional methods of detecting malicious traffic are bundled, static, and inflexible, and thus do not suffice for the growing diversity of attacks on increasing numbers of insecure IoT devices,” said Dr Habibi.

“Our technology develops a model of expected behaviours for each device, based on the manufacturer’s specifications.

“The model is enriched with our patented, real-time artificial intelligence-based algorithms, to check data flows against expected behaviours.”

The technology offers a way for users of IoT devices to control their own network.

And according to Habibi, CyAmast’s solution is far more scalable and cost-effective than its competitors as it does not rely on customised infrastructure.

UNSW’s acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Enterprise, Professor Eliathamby Ambikairajah praised CyAmast for its contribution to the security sector.

“CyAmast is an industry-changing business that will transform the way individuals and organisations around the world protect the growing number of IoT devices that intelligently assist our everyday life,” Ambikairajah said.

The development of CyAmast’s technology comes as the use of IoT devices – and subsequent security threats – continues to rise.

Just this week wearable tech company Garmin was forced to go offline amid fears of a ransomware attack.

IP Group

The funding will come from intellectual property commercialisation company IP Group, which has pledged to invest a minimum of $200m into projects from Australia’s Go8 universities and the University of Auckland.

IP Group managing director in Australia Michael Molinari said the investment in CyAmast’s technology will help protect largescale facilities from cyberattacks as they continue to connect to the IoT.

“The use of IoT devices and sensors is growing exponentially, and as organisations’ networks expand, it’s increasingly difficult to track these assets and secure them,” said Molinari.

“Dr Habibi and his team have developed technology that enables operators of smart environments – like enterprise campuses, commercial buildings, industrial facilities and airports – to rapidly identify every IoT device connected to their network and continuously monitor each one and ensure that it’s functioning normally.”

CyAmast from UNSW joins a host of other university research projects from around the country in IP Group’s portfolio.

This includes flying car project AMSL Aero from the University of Sydney and Canopus Networks from UNSW.