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Prashanth Rajivan receives NSF CAREER Award

By Janine Bufi
June 2, 2022

ISE Assistant Professor Prashanth Rajivan has won a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award to better understand the cognitive processes that explain and predict human decisions related to phishing attacks. This highly competitive award is given to early career faculty members who demonstrate the potential to serve as academic models and lifelong leaders in research and education.

Assistant Professor Prashanth Rajivan

Prashanth’s research seeks to determine the features in phishing messages that people encode to their memory during decision-making. This is accomplished using eye-tracking studies and natural language processing methods. Interestingly, Prof. Rajivan’s lab does not seek to predict the next way the threat will come but rather, they explore the reactions and perceptions around them. “How do you define attack? You don’t–it’s ever-changing,” says Prashanth. “You define and train to correct the response.” His team seeks to create personalized phishing training experiences that will help provide insights on the challenges in misinformation detection and threat detection.

This five-year grant for $543K award will allow Prashanth to continue this important work and advance our knowledge of a secure and trustworthy cyberspace.

This award includes funding for community outreach and Prashanth will be working with local nursing home facilities to help elders become better aware of Internet security and privacy threats as they are often the target of online scams. Student outreach activities are a core of Prashanth’s research. He will be working with a diverse set of students on problems at the intersection of human factors and cyber security. His goal is to advance knowledge and hands-on educational experience in computer security.

 “Through our models and experiments, we will study why people fall victim to phishing emails,” stated Prashanth. “We aim to model and analyze how memory retrieval could impact human susceptibility to phishing. We will also work with cybersecurity companies to understand how best to inform the development of next-generation anti-phishing training systems. Receiving this award is a huge milestone in my academic career! I am grateful to NSF for supporting me. A real dream come true moment!”

Award Title: CAREER: Understanding the Principles of Working Memory in Phishing Decision Making.

Funding Source: National Science Foundation (NSF)