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Developing and Evaluating Immersive Virtual Reality Network Visualizations for Cybersecurity Practitioners

Cybersecurity analysts deal with large and complex datasets, usually managing the protection of layered network topologies by interacting with alphanumeric representations of a network’s entities and traffic. Cybersecurity visualizations can be tailored to empower an analyst to be more effective in dealing with a range of tasks including network analysis, malware analysis, threat analysis, and situational awareness.

Technical Challenge/Activities
The development of immersive VR visualizations for cybersecurity analysts requires the application of domain expertise from cybersecurity, visualization, and human-centered computing. Professors Don Engel (visualization) and Anita Komlodi (HCC) are working with Ph.D. student Kaur Kullman, an cybersecurity analyst who has developed the “Visual Data Explorer” for exploring a network’s topology and activity in the Microsoft HoloLens. The team has described a planned human study in a recent submission to the IEEE Symposium on Visualization for Cyber Security (VizSec) and will be conducting these human trials during the coming academic year.

Potential Impact
The planned trials will put Visual Data Explorer (VDE) in the hands of experienced cybersecurity professionals to show them tasks they normally visualized only mentally and will evaluate the efficacy of VDE in improving their performance. This will inform the ongoing development of VDE and related projects.

Project Members
Faculty from UMBC: Prof. Don Engel, Prof. Anita Komlodi
Collaborators from Secure Decisions: Laurin Buchanan
Students: Kaur Kullman

This project is supported in part by the Army Research Lab

Kaur Kullman, Laurin Buchanan, Anita Komlodi, and Don Engel, “Mental Model Mapping Methodology for Cybersecurity,” In Proceedings of HCI International 2020.  Link to additional video and images