The Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) has awarded 2023 Excellence in Technology Transfer Awards at the national level to two MIT Lincoln Laboratory software products developed to improve security: Keylime and the Forensic Video Exploitation and Analysis (FOVEA) tool suite. Keylime increases the security and privacy of data and services in the cloud, while FOVEA expedites the process of reviewing and extracting useful information from existing surveillance videos. These technologies both previously won FLC Northeast regional awards for Excellence in Technology Transfer, as well as R&D 100 Awards.
“Lincoln Laboratory is honored to receive these two national FLC awards, which demonstrate the capacity of government-nonprofit-industry partnerships to enhance our national security while simultaneously driving new economic growth,” says Louis Bellaire, acting chief technology ventures officer at the laboratory. “These awards are particularly meaningful because they show Lincoln Laboratory teams at their best, developing transformative R&D [research and development] and transferring these results to achieve the strongest benefits for the nation.”
A nationwide network of more than 300 government laboratories, agencies, and research centers, FLC helps facilitate the transfer of technologies out of research labs and into the marketplace. Ultimately, the goal of FLC – organized in 1974 and formally chartered by the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 – is to “increase the impact of federal laboratories’ technology transfer for the benefit of the U.S. economy, society, and national security.” Each year, FLC confers awards to commend outstanding technology transfer efforts of employees of FLC member labs and their partners from industry, academia, nonprofit, or state and local government. The Excellence in Technology Transfer Award recognizes exemplary work in transferring federally developed technology.
Keylime: Enabling trust in the cloud
Cloud computing services are an increasingly convenient way for organizations to store, process, and disseminate data and information. These services allow organizations to rent computing resources from a cloud provider, who handles the management and security of those rented machines. Although cloud providers claim that the machines are secure, customers have no way to verify this security. As a result, organizations with sensitive data, such as U.S. government agencies and financial institutions, are reluctant to reap the benefits of flexibility and low cost that commercial cloud providers offer.
Keylime is an open-source software that enables customers with sensitive data to continuously verify the security of cloud machines, and edge and internet-of-things (IoT) devices. To enact its constant security checks, Keylime leverages a piece of hardware called a trusted platform module (TPM). The TPM generates a hash (a string of characters representing data) that will change significantly if data are tampered with. Keylime was designed to make TPMs compatible with cloud technology and reacts to a TPM hash change within seconds to shut down a compromised machine. Keylime also enables users to securely bootstrap secrets (in other words, upload cryptographic keys, passwords, and certificates into the rented machines) without divulging these secrets to the cloud provider.
Lincoln Laboratory transitioned Keylime to the public via an open-source license and distribution strategy that involved a series of partnerships. In 2015, after completing a prototype of Keylime, laboratory researchers Charles Munson and Nabil Schear collaborated with Boston University and Northeastern University to implement it as a core security component in the Mass Open Cloud (MOC) alliance, a public cloud service supporting thousands of researchers in the state. That experience led the team to work with Red Hat (under a pilot program funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) to mature the technology in the open-source community.
Through the efforts of the Red Hat partnership, Keylime was accepted into the Linux Foundation’s highly selective Cloud Native Computing Foundation as a Sandbox project technology in 2019, a significant step in establishing the technology’s prestige. More than 50 open-source developers are now contributing to Keylime from around the world, and large organizations, including IBM, are deploying the technology to their cloud machines. Most recently, Red Hat released Keylime into its Enterprise Linux 9.1 operating system.
“We are proud that the Keylime team, our partners, and open-source developers have been recognized for their hard work and dedication with this national FLC award. We look forward to maintaining and building impactful collaborations, and helping the Keylime open-source community continue to grow,” says Munson.
The team members recognized with the FLC award are Munson and Schear (creators of Keylime at Lincoln Laboratory); Orran Krieger (MOC and Boston University); Luke Hinds and Michael Peters (Red Hat); Gheorghe Almasi (IBM); and Dan Dardani (formerly of the MIT Technology Licensing Office).
FOVEA: Accelerating video surveillance review
While significant investments have improved camera coverage and video quality, the burden on video operators to analyze and obtain meaningful insights from surveillance footage – still a largely manual process – has greatly increased. The large-scale closed-circuit television systems patrolling public and commercial spaces can comprise hundreds or thousands of cameras, making daily investigation tasks burdensome. Examples of these tasks include searching for events of interest, investigating abandoned objects, and piecing together people’s activity from multiple cameras. As with any investigation, time is of the essence in apprehending persons of interest before they have inflicted widespread harm.
FOVEA dramatically reduces the time required for such forensic video analysis. With FOVEA, security personnel can review hours of video in minutes and perform complex investigations in hours rather than days, translating to faster reaction times to in-progress events and a stronger overall security posture. No pre-analysis video curation or proprietary server equipment are required; the add-on suite of video analytic capabilities can be applied to any video stream in an on-demand fashion and support both routine investigations and unforeseen or catastrophic circumstances such as terrorist threats. This suite includes capabilities for jump back, which automatically rewinds video to critical times and detects general scene changes; video summarization, which condenses all motion activity from long raw video into a short visual summary; multicamera navigation and path reconstruction, which tracks activity over place and time and camera to camera in chronological order; and on-demand person search, which scans neighboring cameras for persons of similar appearance.
Lincoln Laboratory began developing FOVEA under sponsorship from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to address the critical needs of security operators in mass transit security centers. Through an entrepreneurial training program based on the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps, Lincoln Laboratory conducted a broad set of customer interviews, which ultimately led to Doradus Labs licensing FOVEA. The Colorado-based software development and technical support small business offered FOVEA to two of their casino customers and is now introducing the technology to their customers in the educational and transportation industries.
The laboratory team members recognized with the FLC award are Marianne DeAngelus and Jason Thornton (technology invention and primary contact with Doradus); Natalya Luciw, Diane Staheli, Sanjeev Mohindra, and (formerly) Tyler Shube (customer discovery); Ronald Duarte, Zach Elko, Brett Levasseur (software design and technology demonstrations); Jesslyn Alekseyev, Heather Griffin, and Kimberlee Chang and (formerly) Christine Russ, Aaron Yahr, and Marc Valliant (algorithm and software development); Dan Dardani (formerly of the MIT Technology Licensing Office) and Louis Bellaire (licensing); and Drinalda Kume, Jayme Selinger, and Zach Sweet (contracting services).
“It is wonderful to see the software team’s efforts recognized with this award,” says DeAngelus. “I am grateful for the many friendly people across Lincoln Laboratory and MIT who made this transition happen – especially the licensing, contracts, and communications offices.”
The FLC 2023 award winners will be recognized on March 29 at an awards reception and ceremony during the FLC National Meeting.