Michael Farrell

Cybersecurity expert, Georgia Tech, Michael Farrell

Areas of Expertise

Defense / National Security



Co-Executive Director; Chief Strategist, CIPHER Lab, Georgia Tech Research Institute

Michael Farrell, Ph.D., is co-executive director of the Institute for Information Security & Privacy (IISP) at Georgia Tech.  In this role, he guides research across seven units engaged in cyber, information security, risk, and privacy across the Georgia Tech ecosystem. These research, prototyping, and analysis activities go beyond just developing technology to addressing policy, organizational strategy, and risk mitigation issues. The interdisciplinary approach involves engineers and analysts in computer science, engineering, business, law, international affairs, and public policy. The software systems, hardware/software prototypes, and other delivered solutions aim to address a wide range of information security and risk issues by focusing on data science, forensics, Internet of Things/embedded systems, autonomy, and other emerging areas.

In addition to his leadership position at the IISP, Farrell is Principal Research Engineer in the GT School of Electrical Engineering and at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), a University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) with 2,300 employees. He engages sponsors, sets strategy, leads solution development and prototyping, and provides advisory services that span business and technical operations. Farrell brings a holistic perspective to addressing information risk and cybersecurity challenges, considering topics up and down the technology stack and across business, policy, and regulatory domains. Farrell’s personal technical interests currently center around data science for network security and machine learning (ML) for information risk.  Related areas of interest include threat intelligence, data analytics, and man-machine teaming.

Industry sponsors come from banking, financial tech (“fintech”) and payment processing, oil and gas, media, industrials and automation, and technology companies. These range in size from global multi-national organizations to Silicon Valley and Atlanta-based start-ups. Government sponsors of his work span the U.S. DoD and other U.S. government agencies.  In 2016, he and colleagues in the Georgia Tech School of Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) won a research contract from the U.S. DoD now worth $25 million for work that applies ML processes to the attribution of malicious cyber activity.  This work is part of the emerging field of traceback science, performed at the Internet scale using unclassified data. In 2018, Farrell won a $13-million research contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop safe, reliable autonomous agents that can counter botnets and implants at scale on the Internet. This work also is another collaboration between GTRI and ECE.

In the commercial sector prior to joining Georgia Tech, Farrell was director of engineering for a cybersecurity software start-up and began his career at Intel Corporation performing microelectronics fabrication. Farrell began his support to national security projects as a junior researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory focusing on radar systems and data fusion and subsequently served in a number of technical operations positions within the U.S. national security enterprise, focusing on signal processing, near real-time data analysis, special communications, and geolocation systems.

He has earned numerous awards, both as an individual and as part of a team, including honors from the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), Director of the National Security Agency, and the Secretary of Defense. In 2017, Farrell was named a GTRI Fellow – the highest technical honor given by Georgia Tech for excellence in applied research & development. In 2018, he received the Outstanding Program Development Award – Georgia Tech’s highest recognition for delivering numerous solutions to large sponsored programs. Separately in 2018, he received GTRI’s Innovation Excellence Award for novel research in data science applications to information security.

Outside of Georgia Tech, Farrell advises several tech companies. He also serves on advisory boards covering commercial industry, government, and academia. These include the National Academies of Science (NAS), DARPA’s information science & technology (ISAT) study group, and Amazon’s AWS CyberSecurity Consortium. Farrell is a Senior Member of the IEEE, Eta Kappa Nu (IEEE Honor Society), Theta Tau professional engineering fraternity, and a certified information systems security professional (CISSP).  He serves as a national director of the Navy League of the United States (NLUS).

Farrell has numerous peer-reviewed publications on topics of network security, software engineering, data modeling, and sensor exploitation. He holds a Masters and a Ph.D. in Electrical & Computer Engineering from Georgia Tech.