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Kellogg Fellow receives PETRAS funding for AI device for preventing ‘phone fraud’

January 21, 2022

Congratulations to Kellogg Fellow Dr Max Van Kleek and his team who have received funding from the PETRAS National Centre of Excellence for IoT Systems Cybersecurity for their project RED-AID.

Image: University of Oxford, Department of Computer Science.

RED-AID utilises AI technology to help individuals with impaired autonomy, e.g. a person with dementia, who can be especially vulnerable to voice-based social engineering attacks.

Project Leader Dr Max Van Kleek cites his mum as his inspiration for the project. Diagnosed with early-onset dementia two years ago, she nearly fell victim to two phone scamming incidents, Dr Van Kleek told us: ‘Phone fraud affects everyone, but it is particularly damaging and effective against certain individuals, in particular older adults with memory concerns. This project aims to build a device that acts as a super-weapon against phone fraud attempts to help us protect our families.’

Dr Van Kleek and Co-Investigator Dr Peter Novitzky explained: ‘Phone fraud (aka ‘vishing’) accounts for one of the most significant types of crime against individuals in the UK, and has become a huge source of personal financial loss. Yet, people have few defences against this form of crime, which are becoming even more effective through AI-powered methods and techniques. With the support of Howz, a company with an extensive portfolio of IoT devices for assistive ambient living in the home, our multi-disciplinary research team will involve key stakeholders in its design and development to ensure the device is not only effective, but respects individuals’ autonomy, privacy, and dignity at all stages. Our collaboration across the socio-technical landscape aims to not only contribute to the responsible development of a novel AI-based technology addressing a pressing societal challenge, but also to contribute to the formulation of a more widely applicable ethical design framework for ambient assistive devices in the home.’

The RED-AID project originates in Dr Van Kleek’s current PETRAS2 funded project, RETCON (Red Teaming the Connected Internet of Things), which looks at how AI systems can make everyday non-experts more resilient to sophisticated cybersecurity attacks through a training-and-attack (adversarial) approach, for the purposes of education and awareness.

PETRAS funds projects that provide technology solutions for the betterment of society and the UK economy, as well as identify potential issues and risks across sectors, ultimately helping to ensure the UK is a safer and more prosperous place.