Expertise in Human Behavior Helps Solve Cyber Challenges for the Department of Defense
October 09, 2023
Protecting the Lives of Soldiers
The city of Ville Platte, Louisiana—just north of Lafayette—is better known for tasty
boudin and Cajun music culture than psychological research, but Ville Platte native
Michael Cole Fontenot aims to change that. Currently a sophomore and psychology major
at LSU, Fontenot is carving out a niche for himself, researching the psychological
aspects of military cybersecurity.
“Typically, cybersecurity is about hardware and software and making it harder to hack. But I’m not a tech guy,” Fontenot said. “Cyber psychology is a recently developing field; it’s studying hacker behavior and trying to track hackers that way.”
Real-world military operations increasingly involve virtual and augmented reality technology, both for training and use on the battlefield. Though valuable, these technologies can leave military personnel vulnerable to hackers bent on putting something false in front of their eyes.
Fontenot’s and LSU’s research project, funded by a $600,000 grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, explores the behavior and physical safety of people who use virtual or augmented reality devices or applications where false, deceptive or overwhelming amounts of information could be maliciously introduced through a cybersecurity breach.
“[Hackers] could use artificial intelligence to replicate your commander’s voice to tell you to go somewhere, put you in a vulnerable position and then shoot you,” Fontenot said.
“Augmented reality is used to support the supply chain for many of the complex weapon systems used by our warfighters. Hence, cybersecurity plays a key role throughout the supply chain, making LSU’s work with DARPA all the more critical. The impact of a cyber breach could be devastating.”
Robert “Bobby” Savoie, chief science and engineering officer at Sev1Tech, which works with LSU and NASA to return Americans to the Moon and ultimately to Mars