Trio of Windsor winners at APMA Auto Cybersecurity Awards

Friday, October 30, 2020

The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell


The Windsor region’s growing reputation as an automotive cybersecurity hub was recognized Thursday with a sweep of the top individual honours in the first annual Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association’s Cybersecurity Awards.

It was also a banner day for the University of Windsor as professors Mitra Mirhassani and Ikjot Saini were honoured along with recent computer science graduate Noah Campbell.

“The APMA describes Windsor as the beating heart of our auto sector and winning three individual awards tells us this heart doesn’t need a pacemaker,” said the APMA’s Chief Technical Officer Colin Singh Dhillon, who was one of the competition’s judges.

“Windsor is doing the work to keep ahead of the curve in auto mobility. They (the winners) are laying the groundwork for the future.”

Saini, an assistant professor of computer science, won the Cyber Woman of the Year award.

Associate professor of electrical and computer engineering Mitra Mirhassani earned the Outstanding Individual Achievement honours while Campbell claimed the Young Cyber Achievement award.

Campbell now serves as Tech Community Program Manager for WEtech Alliance and the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation.

Saini joked that: “Cyber Woman of the Year sounds like a Marvel movie.”

“This represents the work we’re all doing here — colleagues, industry, companies, the university, college…. It doesn’t happen without the support of the Windsor community and the recognition and appreciation of the work we do.

“I’m not originally from here and this community has supported me in ways I never imagined.”

Saini was recognized for her work in the areas of vehicle-to-everything communication. Earlier this year, Autonews Canada named Saini as one of its Canadians To Watch in the auto industry.

“I’m really happy the recognition will lead to young women seeing role models in this field,” Saini said.

“It’s very positive to have diversity in tech fields.”

The APMA award honouring her work in hardware security and academic research caps off a stellar 2020 for Mirhassani. IT World Canada named her one of the Top 20 Women in Cybersecurity in Canada earlier this year.

“What makes this even better is I’m one of three local award winners,” Mirhassani said. “This is a big win for the University of Windsor.

“It shows the energy and talent in this area. We’re buzzing with activity and there’s a bright future for Windsor.”

Mirhassani started out as an artificial intelligence researcher, but shifted her focus to cybersecurity after what she learned.

“I realized there are so many open doors into hardware,” Mirhassani said.

“It’s scary that we’re not paying enough attention. It was keeping me up at night.

“Everyone was paying attention to software development, but these things don’t stand a chance if the hardware is attacked.”

Singh Dhillon said the cybersecurity work being done impacts more than the auto industry.

“It’s foundational to all technology being developed,” Singh Dhillon said.

Campbell was honoured for his work in creating partnerships with Blackberry to develop curriculum and a boot camp at the university, help develop the Cross-border Hackathon and his collaborations with the APMA and the Institute for Border Logistics and Security.

“The three of us have collaborated on a lot of things and I think that has put us all on the radar and raised the profile of the region,” Campbell said.

“The importance of cybersecurity is still under-recognized. It’s not if you’re going to get attacked, it’s when.

“This region is going to come out on top because the work we’re doing is going to make us cyber ready.”