Named an Advancing Next-Gen Faculty Leadership fellow for 2020–2021, Kim-Kwang Raymond Choo is a professor in the College of Business and holds the Cloud Technology Endowed Professorship in addition to being an information technology Ph.D. adviser. He joined UTSA in 2016 as part of the cluster hiring program to broaden and deepen the university’s area of research excellence in cyber. He will complete his fellowship within Knowledge Enterprise.
Choo holds a Ph.D. in information technology (cryptography) from Queensland University of Technology. He spent five years working for the University of South Australia and another five at the Australian Institute of Criminology, the country’s dedicated national research and knowledge center.
Locally, Choo was appointed an honorary commander of the 502nd Air Base Wing, Joint Base San Antonio–Fort Sam Houston. He is also a fellow of the Australian Computer Society, a senior member of IEEE, and co-chair of IEEE Multimedia Communications Technical Committee’s Digital Rights Management for Multimedia Interest Group.
What are your plans as a faculty fellow this year in Knowledge Enterprise?
I am extremely fortunate to have been selected for the Advancing Next-Gen Faculty Leadership Fellow Program, led by Academic Affairs, and appreciate the support of [Bernard] Arulanandam and the REDKE team for agreeing to host me this academic year.
I will be working closely with internal and external stakeholders on activities relating to research excellence and the institution’s pursuit of Carnegie R1 designation and to trigger the National Research University Fund. My focus will be on contributing to the formulation of an international partnership strategy for UTSA, particularly in the areas of cybersecurity and STEAM [fields in science, technology, engineering, arts and math].
Due to my background [born in Singapore and having spent 15 years in Australia], I firmly believe that internationalization and partnership are central to UTSA research activities, in terms of gaining broader research viewpoints on cybersecurity, enhancing student and faculty recruitment, facilitating international placement and exposure, enriching college and campus culture, and improving university rankings from a research and creative/scholarly output perspective.
In my role of faculty fellow, I am hoping to leverage my networks in the U.S. and overseas to strengthen existing partnerships and collaborators and to identify new ones, with the view of enhancing UTSA’s research capabilities in cyber STEAM, including humanities and other non-STEM disciplines.
How is the pandemic affecting your focus on internationalization?
Unfortunately, it’s more challenging. As we have been grounded since March, my outreach has been online; however, we need to drive momentum and move these relationships forward.
I’m focusing on kick-starting some of our established research collaborations and activities, such as with TU Darmstadt—and also pursuing a joint cybersecurity Ph.D. program in conjunction with other departments on campus. I also have a personal connection to Darmstadt, renowned as a “city of science,” as I spent some time at Fraunhofer-Institut für Sichere Informationstechnologie as a visiting Ph.D. student in 2005.
What are your areas of research?
My research interests are somewhat diverse. My undergraduate degree is in industrial and applied mathematics, with a master’s in information technology, a Ph.D. in information technology [cryptography], and a graduate diploma in business. After completing my Ph.D., I made a career change and went to work for the Australian Institute of Criminology, part of the Home Affairs Portfolio and accountable to the minister for home affairs.
During my five years there I focused on cybercrime, anti–money-laundering and counterterrorism financing research, and spent a few months at Rutgers University’s School of Criminal Justice and [Palo Alto Research Center] as a visiting Fulbright scholar.
Returning to academia, my experience has shaped my broad and interdisciplinary research focus on cybercrime and -security, data analytics and digital forensics. I seek to understand how data can be acquired from contemporary computing devices for both malicious (e.g., criminal or malicious exploitation—cyber offensive) and legitimate (e.g., cyber threat intelligence, digital forensics and investigation) purposes.
The understanding of how data can be acquired or exfiltrated, particularly in terms of criminal and/or malicious exploitation, will then inform the design of cyberdefensive and privacy-preserving solutions—e.g., using technical approaches such as Blockchain and artificial intelligence, and nontechnical approaches.
In recent times I also started exploring the application of AI in various cybersecurity applications—e.g., identification and exploitation of vulnerabilities, data analytics and cyberthreat hunting.
How does your research have application to real-world challenges?
It’s important to ensure my research is relevant to policy and practice and is aligned with major and ongoing government policy directions and strategies. The cryptographic primitive in one of the three regular U.S. patent applications I filed in 2019 is currently deployed by a UK cryptocurrency start-up, where I also serve on its advisory board.
I have also had the opportunity to apply my research knowledge and provide expert opinion on policy developments, such as the Australian Government Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Cyber White Paper as a member of the Australian Computer Society Cyber Task Force of Experts, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics Draft Conceptual Framework for Cybercrime.
I have appeared as an invited witness in a private briefing on “Bitcoin and alternative remittance systems” to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services.
More recently, I provided expert insights in writings to inform North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Allied Command Transformation Innovation Hub’s Warfighting 2040 report. I’ve also reviewed for L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science 2021 International Awards (physical sciences, mathematics and computer science) and the Canada Research Chairs (Tier 1) Program.
What do you want our research community to know? Any final thoughts?
To help us reimagine the role of cybersecurity and STEAM in our future world and to establish cutting-edge and interdisciplinary research agendas in addressing global grand challenges, we will need to actively engage our research community—and that’s you, the readers—to provide your varied perspectives and offer new ways where we can grow and expand our research enterprise and ecosystem.
Hence, I’m extremely excited and look forward to engaging and having conversation with our community—whether it be faculty members, external research partners or others working or wishing to work with the institution to expand our knowledge base and help orchestrate new thinking and opportunities for the future.