UB partnership receives $1.8 million award to accelerate security for AI adoption in U.S. Department of Defense

Lyu, Hunt, Smith and Sellitto headshots.

Lyu, Hunt, Smith and Sellitto

Release Date: May 24, 2024

“This project is part of a critical push towards securing AI models that may be vulnerable to a wide range of attacks.”
University at Buffalo School of Management

BUFFALO, N.Y. —  Four University at Buffalo 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, from the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences will serve as principal investigator. And, from the UB School of Management’s Management Science and Systems department, Kyle Hunt, assistant professor, and Sanjukta Smith, chair and associate professor, will serve as co-principal investigators, with Dominic Sellitto, clinical assistant professor, serving 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 U.S. 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 towards 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 our 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. For more information, visit www.afresearchlab.com.

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. For more information, visit: www.afwerx.com.

HiddenLayer is the leading provider of security for AI. Its security platform helps enterprises safeguard the machine learning models behind their most important products. HiddenLayer is the only company to offer turnkey security for AI that does not add unnecessary complexity to models and does not require access to raw data and algorithms. Founded by a team with deep roots in security and ML, HiddenLayer aims to protect enterprise’s AI from inference, bypass, extraction attacks and model theft. The company is backed by a group of strategic investors, including M12, Microsoft’s Venture Fund, Moore Strategic Ventures, Booz Allen Ventures, IBM Ventures and Capital One Ventures.

Now in its 100th year, the UB School of Management is recognized for its emphasis on real-world learning, community and impact, and the global perspective of its faculty, students and alumni. The school also has been ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes and U.S. News & World Report for the quality of its programs and the return on investment it provides its graduates. For more information about the UB School of Management, visit management.buffalo.edu.

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Kevin Manne
Associate Director of Communications
School of Management