Investing in Applied Academic Threat Research

Article by Forta Network Jan. 3, 2023

It is in the interest of the Forta Foundation and the space as a whole to invest in the future of Web3 security. To that end, the Forta Foundation is now engaging with two leading research institutions, Ohio State University (OSU) and the University of California Santa Barbra (UCSB), to further state-of-the-art applied threat research at the academic level. In addition, the Forta Foundation has rolled out a Request for Papers (RFP) and is encouraging any academic institution to apply for the $100,000 research grant. Community based research is a backbone of securing Web3, through open source research initiatives powered by academics and independent researchers alike, Web3’s greatest vulnerabilities can be defeated.

The funding of applied academic research is broadly focused on areas of interest that secure Web3. Threat detection is of course a major focus, and finding new and novel solutions for discovering and stopping the hacks that take billions out of user’s pockets every year is a top priority for all involved. Ideally, this research will be incorporated into Forta’s decentralized threat detection platform, where actionable intelligence is brought into the hands of Forta users.

OSU researchers are instrumenting the EVM in a way that minute details can be gleaned from different parts of a transaction using Geth (Go Ethereum). This exposes low-level byte code instructions for assessment, corresponding to the detection of real world attacks. That methodology will then be fed into an AI system which will filter the data then eventually push alerts through Forta’s system.

At UCSB, a capstone project for PhD students is pushing the frontier in the arena of malicious smart contract detection. Malicious smart contracts are deployed prior to funds being exploited. The code is clearly visible (either verified source code or bytecode) which lends itself to a plethora of machine learning based detection approaches. UCSB, who has been a leader in Web2 security research, explores various ML approaches to identify smart contracts with high precision and recall.

This Forta Foundation funded research will undoubtedly prove to have a lasting impact in the world of threat detection and prevention. By leveraging the university’s cutting edge research and the power of Forta’s decentralized Network, protocols can not only detect threats but will have the power to go a step further and block them before damage can be done. 

Beyond OSU and USCB, the Forta Foundation has opened up a generic request for proposals looking for any university to join the efforts in finding the next breakthrough in threat research. This RFP funds applied research in the area of securing Web3 with an amount of up to $100K. Deadline for proposals is on Jan 15th. For more information, please refer to the RFP page