Dr Ke Li

Exeter expert secures prestigious Amazon Research Award

A rising research star at the University of Exeter has received a prestigious international research award. 

Dr Ke Li, from Exeter’s Computer Science department, has been given an Amazon Research Award to pioneer new research into improving the efficiency and proficiencies of computer firewalls. 

Dr Li is one of 101 recipients of the award worldwide – and one of only three from the UK – and will receive $30,000 in total, consisting of $20,000 USD in unrestricted gift and an additional $10,000 USD in AWS Promotional Credits. 

Dr Li said: “Automating the process of finding effective test cases for the system(s) under test is of high importance in software development lifecycle. 

"I am really excited about the generous support by Amazon, and I believe it will help to take a huge step towards automated software testing and verification pipeline. "

Web application firewalls (WAF) play an integral role in protecting web applications from various malicious attacks. However, given the evolving sophistication of cyber attacks and the increasing complexity of tuning a WAF, it is challenging to ensure that all malicious attacks can be blocked sufficiently. 

The principal goal of this project is to develop an automatic injection testing tool that simultaneously generates test cases for multiple types of injection attacks on WAF.  

This project consists of three major tasks - gathering dataset for WAF profiling; develop a language model using multi-task learning that translates the test cases between any pair of injection attacks; and developing a multi-task evolutionary test case generator that co-evolve different types of injection attacks. 

Speaking about the awards, Tye Brady, chief technologist for Amazon Robotics added: “As we enter into this golden age of robotics, we do so with our university partners. Not only are they shaping what is possible in robotics, they are inspiring many next- generation roboticists with their incredible creations and front-line teachings. 

“Our grant recipients are not only pursuing cutting-edge research that will benefit society, but perhaps more importantly are helping students from across the globe pursue a career in science and engineering.” 

Date: 30 April 2021