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Phirelight Security Solutions Inc.

Enhanced security features for mobile devices

Headshot of Khalil El-KhatibHackers are becoming so good at what they do, digital security companies struggle just to stay ahead of new spyware, viruses, and phishing threats. 

A collaborative project between students at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and Phirelight Security Solutions Inc. in Ottawa, Ontario, has resulted in the design of a new security platform for mobile devices.

Founded in 2001, Phirelight is an IT security consulting and solutions firm specializing in the practice and study of techniques for securing all levels of digital information in the presence of threats such as spyware, viruses, and phishing threats.

To stay atop of the market and ahead of threats, Phirelight decided to design architecture for a new, multi-faceted security platform to offer their clients. More than one security setting would decrease the chance of threats getting through. But as a small company, they lacked the time and resources to develop the technology themselves. To make it happen they teamed up with Dr. Khalil El-Khatib, associate professor in UOIT’s Faculty of Business and Information Technology (FBIT).

Dr. El-Khatib supervised Mouhcine Guennoun, a postdoctorate FBIT student,  Mohammad El-Sukhni, Master of Science candidate, and Mihai Chirac and Bogdan Deuritriu, Master of Information Technology Security candidates, for the duration of the project.

To cover the costs of the project, Phirelight sought funding. They were given a grant from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) through its Applied Research and Commercialization (ARC) Initiative. ARC aims to accelerate innovation and improve productivity for globally competitive southwestern Ontario companies with fewer than 1,000 employees. FedDev Ontario accomplishes this by providing funding to universities so faculty and students can work directly with industry businesses on innovative projects.

The funding from FedDev Ontario allowed Dr. El-Khatib to pay his students, which he said was important because the work they did for the project was essential to its success.  

Once the research stage was complete, the students created an application, which uses the camera on a mobile device to capture the user’s face as it simultaneously scans a security code. The security code is captured using another camera on the reverse side of the device.

“This multi-faceted approach to security aims to ensure identity more thoroughly than a password, which is so often compromised,” said Dr. El-Khatib.

“The students did everything. They are the engines. They found alternative solutions, did the designs, and completed the testing,” he said. 

Dr. El-Khatib said a couple of the students now have jobs in the industry and he believes it is a direct result of working on this project.

“The exposure they received because we were able to collaborate with Phirelight was so beneficial. They were presented with real-life challenges and technologies and they got to work directly with a company,” he said.

Due to the successful collaboration, UOIT now has an established relationship with Phirelight, which Dr. El-Khatib said is perhaps more valuable than the project itself.

“There is the potential for more projects, which means more opportunities for UOIT students,” he said. 

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