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Rocket-Launch of a Duquesne Startup: DARPA Funding Fuels Liberal Arts School’s First Spinoff

The first startup from Duquesne University's McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts has a rocket-launch beginning, thanks to a subcontract of nearly $700,000 in DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) funding.

Juola & Associates, which provides stylometric software to verify the authorship of handwritten and typed works, is fueled by a $318,403 subcontract from the heavyweight DARPA, which is better known for funding extraterrestrial vehicles than for backing computer programs to determine authorship.

But DARPA has concerns with cyber security, said Dr. Patrick Juola, associate professor of computational science and mathematics, and CEO and founder of the consulting company. So Juola & Associates' software, which determines "active authentication" of authors-studying writing style, techniques, even browser behavior and typing speed-interests DARPA.

Previous work with Drexel University's Privacy Security and Authentication Laboratory led to this subcontract, Juola said. DARPA, which typically funds giants such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University, follows "the most imaginative work," Juola said. "Their funds go to the people most likely to make miracles. It's some of the most exciting work I've seen, and I'm delighted that Duquesne University can be part of this."

In initial research this fall, Juola & Associates hired temporary office help to type, file and go online as they would at any job, then gathered information to determine which individual used which computer and when, based upon specific behaviors.

Over eight months, Juola & Associates will analyze this data, said Patrick Brennan, president and chief operations officer. "It will provide valuable information after it's done as far as motion and design studies as well as implications on office morale."

The size of the data, Juola said, is impressive. "This is one of the largest scale data collections of this nature, not just at Duquesne and Drexel. I think this will help to make the Internet more secure."

Juola & Associates sprung from a $1.62 million National Science Foundation grant Juola received in 2010 to further develop his author verification program.  As part of the grant, Juola promised to attempt to transfer this new technology to the private sector.

"We deliver expert opinion on authorship verification that is backed by computational analysis," said Juola, who has focused on authorship verification since 1996. Reports based on his stylometric algorithms have been used in courts, including a political asylum case, with current work on inheritance and fraud cases-and early writings of Abe Lincoln.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.