- Evaluating Security Outcomes: Applying Evidence-based Security to Improve Cybersecurity Risk (2018)
Facebook invited submissions from university researchers and faculty, non-profit organizations, and NGOs for applied research proposals to improve the security, privacy, and safety of internet users. Their goal is to spur the development of technology that may be applied in practice. Facebook awarded up to $100,000 per proposal for the Secure the Internet Grant.
CNS/CSE Professors Stefan Savage and Geoffrey Voelker received a $75,000 a grant for their proposal, “Evaluating Security Outcomes: Applying Evidence-based Security to Improve Cybersecurity Risk.” This project will bring large portions of cybersecurity under an evidence-based umbrella, to correlate concrete cybersecurity outcomes (e.g., whether a particular machine is compromised or a credential is stolen) with concrete security behaviors (e.g., is the software patched, does the user of the machine visit file sharing sites, etc.). Their lab plans to use this approach to both empirically evaluate particular hypotheses (i.e., a correlation between the use of file-sharing sites and host compromise might be explained by the poisoning of the file-sharing ecosystem with malware). They will also develop network measurement tools to extract a broad array of security-relevant behaviors as well as indicators of outcomes, using the machines connected to UC San Diego’s network as the basis of the study.
- Congratulations to CNS Faculty Member Ranjit Jhala! (2018)
Congratulations to Ranjit Jhala for receiving the 2018 Robin Milner Young Researcher Award. The Robin Milner Young Researcher Award is given by ACM SIGPLAN to recognize outstanding contributions by young investigators in the area of programming languages. Individuals are eligible if their computer-related professional career (graduate school or full-time employment, whichever began first) started no earlier than 20 years prior to the nominations deadline. The award ceremony took place at the PLDI conference in Philadelphia on June 21, 2018.
- Congratulations to CNS Faculty Member Alin Deutsch! (2018)
- Actor and Activist George Takei’s Visit to UC San Diego (2018)
Actor and activist George Takei visited UC San Diego on April 26 to deliver the DeWitt Higgs Memorial lecture, presented by the Council of Provosts of the Undergraduate Colleges at UC San Diego. The openly gay Takei has long been a passionate advocate for social justice, an outspoken supporter of human right issues, and a community activist. Sothyrak Srey, the current Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship recipient, and CNS Co-Director, George Porter, had an opportunity to meet and talk about the Turing scholarship with George Takei and his husband, Brad Takei, at a pre-lecture reception. Special thank you to Earl Warren College for this opportunity.
Related Article: The Guardian, UCSD
- CNS Postdoctoral Researcher and Graduate Student featured on CS Channel (2018)
CNS/CSE Postdoctoral Researcher, Max Mellette, and Graduate Student, Ariana Mirian, talk about their current research at CSE. These six videos are the first to be featured in a series called “We Are CSE.” Max, working with Professor George Porter, discusses how his research focuses on using optical switching to improve the scalability, power consumption, and cost of data center networks. Ariana, advised by Professors Geoff Voelker and Stefan Savage, discusses her work and interest in improving internet security and her focus on the intersection of usable security and empirical analysis. Their videos are being featured on the UCSD Computer Science Channel. https://www.uctv.tv/computer-science/we-are-cse/
- CNS Espresso Prize for Excellence in Networking (2018)
The CNS Espresso Prize for Excellence in Networking was awarded by Professor Alex C. Snoeren to UCSD undergraduate student Christian Chung for his outstanding final project in CSE 123 (2017 fall quarter).
Every academic year, the Computer Science and Engineering department offers the class CSE 123, Computer Networks. In this class, students are introduced to concepts, principles, and practice of computer communication networks with examples from existing architectures, protocols, and standards. Students are expected to complete a final project showing how they use the concepts they have learned to resolve a problem posed by the instructor.
Dr. George Varghese, a former CSE professor, taught CSE 123 for almost a decade and always enjoyed seeing the many ways that students implemented their final projects. When Dr. Varghese departed from UC San Diego in 2013, he left behind a gift to fund an annual prize to be awarded to the students who produce the best final projects in CSE 123.
The CNS Espresso Prize for Excellence in Networking is awarded by the current professor for CSE 123, Alex C. Snoeren, based upon criteria set by him for the given final project assigned each year.
Previous Recipients of the CNS Espresso Prize for Excellence in Networking:
2017 Undergraduate recipient: Yihan Zhang
2016 Undergraduate recipient: Conner Johnston
2014 Undergraduate recipient: Aaron Yip Ming Wong
2014 Visiting Undergraduate recipient: Matheus Venturyne Xavier Ferreira
2013 Undergraduate recipient: Jacob Maskiewicz
2013 Graduate recipient: Vidya Kirupanidhi
- Robot Parade! Computer Science 91 with Professor Steve Swanson (2017)
CSE Bits n’ Bytes
Premiere Date: 12/15/2017; 5 minutes
A quick look at an innovative computer science class from the UC San Diego Department of Computer Science and Engineering that gives first year students hands-on experience in designing, building and programming their own robots. (#31796)
- Computer Scientists Develop Simple Tool to Detect Website Data Breach (2017)
Computer scientists have built and successfully tested a tool designed to detect when websites are hacked by monitoring the activity of email accounts associated with them. The researchers were surprised to find that almost 1 percent of the websites they tested had suffered a data breach during their 18-month study period, regardless of how big the companies’ reach and audience are.
“No one is above this—companies or nation states— it’s going to happen; it’s just a question of when,” said Alex C. Snoeren, the paper’s senior author and a professor of computer science at the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California San Diego.
One percent might not seem like much. But given that there are over a billion sites on the Internet, this means tens of millions of websites could be breached every year, said Joe DeBlasio, one of Snoeren’s Ph.D. students and the paper’s first author. Even scarier, the researchers found that popular sites were just as likely to be hacked as unpopular ones. This means that out of the top-1000 most visited sites on the Internet, ten are likely to be hacked every year.
“One percent of the really big shops getting owned is terrifying,” DeBlasio said.
The team of researchers at UC San Diego presented the tool in November at the ACM Internet Measurement Conference in London.
The concept behind the tool, called Tripwire, is relatively simple. DeBlasio created a bot that registers and creates accounts on a large number of websites—around 2,300 were included in their study. Each account is associated with a unique email address. The tool was designed to use the same password for the email account and the website account associated with that email. Researchers then waited to see if an outside party used the password to access the email account. This would indicate that the website’s account information had been leaked.
To make sure that the breach was related to hacked websites and not the email provider or their own infrastructure, researchers set up a control group. It consisted of more than 100,000 email accounts they created with the same email provider used in the study. But computer scientists did not use the addresses to register on websites. None of these email accounts were accessed by hackers.
In the end, researchers determined 19 websites had been hacked, including a well-known American startup with more than 45 million active customers.
Once the accounts were breached, researchers got in touch with the sites’ security teams to warn them of the breaches. They exchanged emails and phone calls. “I was heartened that the big sites we interacted with took us seriously,” Snoeren said.
Yet none of the websites chose to disclose to their customers the breach the researchers had uncovered. “I was somewhat surprised no one acted on our results,” Snoeren said.
The researchers decided not to name the companies in their study.
“The reality is that these companies didn’t volunteer to be part of this study,” Snoeren said. “By doing this, we’ve opened them up to huge financial and legal exposure. So we decided to put the onus on them to disclose.”
Interestingly, very few of the breached accounts were used to send spam once they became vulnerable. Instead, the hackers usually just monitored email traffic. DeBlasio speculates that the hackers were monitoring emails to harvest valuable information, such as bank and credit card accounts.
Researchers went a step further. They created at least two accounts per website. One account had an “easy” password—strings of seven-character words with their first letter capitalized and followed by a single digit. These kinds of passwords are usually the first passwords that hackers will guess. The other account had a “hard” password—random 10-character strings of numbers and letters, both in lower and upper case, without special characters.
Seeing which of the two accounts got breached allowed researchers to make a good guess about how websites store passwords. If both the easy and hard passwords were hacked, the website likely just stores passwords in plain text, contrary to typically-followed best practice. If only the account using the easy password was breached, the sites likely used a more sophisticated method for password storage: an algorithm that turns passwords into a random string of data—with random information added to those strings.
The computer scientists had a few pieces of advice for Internet users: don’t reuse passwords; use a password manager; and ask yourself how much you really need to disclose online.
“Websites ask for a lot of information,” Snoeren said. “Why do they need to know your mother’s real maiden name and the name of your dog?”
DeBlasio was less optimistic that these precautions would work.
“The truth of the matter is that your information is going to get out; and you’re not going to know that it got out,” he said.
Snoeren and colleagues are not planning to pursue further research on Tripwire.
“We hope to have impact through companies picking it up and using it themselves,” he said. “Any major email provider can provide this service.”
- New UC San Diego Chapter Sends LGBT+ Delegates to oSTEM National Conference (2017)
For the first time, a delegation of faculty and students from the University of California San Diego attended the annual Out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (oSTEM) National Conference. The four-day conference took place November 16-19 in Chicago, IL.
Over 800 attendees participated in the 7th oSTEM conference to discuss topics and challenges faced by members of the LGBT+ community in STEM fields (including computer science), and to celebrate the community and help ensure student success in school – and when those students start looking for a job.
The national event coincided with the inaugural year of the new oSTEM Chapter at UC San Diego. Financial support from sponsors allowed the new chapter to send five undergraduate students to the conference: Kayla Ortiz, Terry Worlikar, Joyce (Jun) Lor, Sothyrak (Tee) Srey, and Hasan Al-Jamaly.
“Being part of the conference was an exhilarating experience that opened my eyes to a community I never knew existed,” said Computer Science junior Hasan Al-Jamaly. “More importantly, it’s a community I truly belong to and feel part of.” Other attendees also reinforced the importance of solidarity with other oSTEM participants as an integral part of their experience at the conference.
Two UC San Diego faculty members accompanied the student delegation to Chicago: Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) professor Arun Kumar, and Mathematics professor Daniel Rogalski. UC San Diego faculty participation in the conference was made possible by campus units: CSE in the case of professor Kumar, and the Office of the Dean of Physical Sciences in the case of professor Rogalski.
The new oSTEM chapter at UC San Diego also benefited from support provided by corporate sponsors Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Door of Clubs (a startup that matches college clubs with potential partners in industry). Funding from UC San Diego academic units came from the Jacobs School of Engineering, Division of Biological Sciences, and Division of Physical Sciences. Aid was also forthcoming from the national oSTEM organization.
The conference featured an extensive span of corporate site tours, workshops, research presentations, networking opportunities, and a career and graduate student expo where oSTEM students could meet with potential future employers. In addition to sponsors Northrop Grumman and Boeing, organizations with booths this year included NASA, Raytheon, Google, Genentech, Accenture, Lockheed Martin, and the nonprofit Human Rights Campaign. A number of elite graduate programs also had booths, including Columbia Engineering, John Hopkins, Cornell Engineering, UC Berkeley, University of Michigan, New York University, Purdue, and Georgia Tech.
Topics on the agenda ranged from “Ending Police Violence with Artificial Intelligence,” “An Introduction to Leadership: Motivating People to Believe and Achieve,” community breakouts featuring Queer/Pan/Ace/Middle Sexualities, Faith, Trans/Non-Binary, as well as panels such as “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay: Managing Your Mental Health,” and “Dear White People: Intersection of Race/Ethnicity & LGBTQIA Identity.”
During the conference, oSTEM also organized a Chapter Leadership Summit to discuss the fundamentals of executive board management, an issue that pervades many student organizations. A major topic at this year’s summit was the open-mindedness necessary to run an infant organization, as well as effective planning and project management tools based on setting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
Computer Science senior Sothyrak (Tee) Srey – current holder of the Center for Networked Systems (CNS) Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship at UCSD – participated in the summit. “This is our first official year and our first time attending the oSTEM National Conference, and I was really hoping to leave the conference with concrete ideas that I could implement as an officer,” said Srey, Secretary of the oSTEM chapter at UC San Diego. “After hearing from other chapters, I feel a sense of relief because of how well our chapter is doing so far. We typically draw about 30 people to oSTEM meetings at UC San Diego, which is roughly similar to the number of active participants at longer-established oSTEM chapters around the country. This shows that we are making an impact in LGBT visibility on campus.”
According to CSE professor Arun Kumar, more UC San Diego LGBT+ faculty would benefit from establishing a community similar to the students’ oSTEM chapter on campus. “There was almost no other faculty from computer science at the national conference this year,” noted Kumar. “An organized network of LGBT+ faculty could promote useful community-building within academia.”
Looking ahead to the 2018 8th oSTEMnational conference, which will take place in Texas, the UC San Diego chapter is planning to send more students and faculty than they did this year.
Professors Kumar and Rogalski leveraged their presence at oSTEM 2017 to collect relevant information from staff and students from other schools with booths or other presence at the conference — information that could guide UC San Diego as it ramps up its presence at the 2018 conference. CSE’s Kumar believes UC San Diego should be able to join the ranks of graduate schools with booths at theoSTEM expo next year in Texas. A UC San Diego booth would particularly focus on recruiting future graduate students in STEM topics from among the ranks of oSTEM’s (mostly) undergraduate student delegates. (Assuming that support is forthcoming from graduate schools and divisions at UC San Diego, the oSTEM chapter would staff a booth to hand out graduate-school materials and represent the graduate divisions and schools to encourage greater diversity throughout UC San Diego.)
“Overall, UC San Diego’s participation in its first oSTEM national conference was a great success,” added student Tee Srey. “It proved to be beneficial in enabling our oSTEM chapter’s ability to continue building community – and enabling our members to succeed.”
The growing presence of UC San Diego at future oSTEM events reflects the greater awareness on campus of the need to attract and retain a diverse student body, especially in technology and the sciences. Last June a 2017 report by College Choice named UC San Diego the 9th best public university in the U.S. for LGBTQ students, and 19th among all public and private universities for LGBTQ students.
- CSE Professor Elevated to IEEE Fellow in Class of 2018 (2017)CSE/CNS Professor Tajana Rosing has been elected a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). She is one of five Jacobs School of Engineering faculty members elevated to be part of the IEEE Fellows class of 2018. (Others include ECE’s Massimo Franceschetti and David Whelan, as well as MAE’s Sonia Martinez and James Friend.)IEEE honored Rosing for her “contributions to power and reliability management of Systems-on-Chip.”
In the past year, Rosing was named holder of the John J. and Susan M. Fratamico Endowed Chair in the Jacobs School of Engineering. She also became co-director of the Artificial Intelligence and Healthy Living Center (AIHL), a new joint center between UC San Diego and IBM Research. The groundbreaking center promotes critical research and applications in two thematic areas: Healthy Aging (led by Rosing) and the Human Microbiome (led by CSE and Pediatrics professor Rob Knight), together with co-directors from IBM Research.Rosing leads the System Energy Efficiency Laboratory (SEELab) in CSE. The lab focuses on energy efficiency in all kinds of systems, from sensor nodes to smart cities. In addition to energy-efficient computing, her primary research interests include context-aware computing, human-cyber-physical system design, embedded systems hardware and software design, resource management at the system level, and the design of approximate and highly efficient architectures. In her current research, Rosing investigates efficient, distributed data collection, aggregation and processing of data in the context of smart cities, wireless healthcare, as well as Internet of Things applications.“Professor Rosing’s creativity and approach to research have had a deep impact on innovation in computer engineering,” said CSE chair Dean Tullsen. “Her elevation to be an IEEE Fellow is well-deserved in light of her many contributions to the field of energy efficiency in computing systems.”Rosing’s recent work builds on her use of information present in wireless systems to achieve more efficient system operation. She focuses on efficiently extracting knowledge about context from sensing observations of human behavior and needs as well as from stationary or mobile environmental sensing systems. Rosing has leveraged that knowledge to implement distributed control algorithms for large-scale Internet of Things applications underlying Smart Cities infrastructure. A recent example includes using drones to detect areas of higher air pollution collaboratively and dynamically, and to provide this feedback in real time in emergencies (e.g., forest fires), and in normal daily life (such as air pollution due to recent fertilization of nearby fields, or due to higher than normal and localized smog conditions).The computer engineer has also leveraged context to optimize the operation and design of embedded systems by maximizing energy efficiency in exchange for controllable and tolerable inaccuracies in computation. According to Rosing, this research has resulted in systems that are up to 1,000 times more energy efficient with less than a 10 percent error in computation. “These systems are especially applicable to many Internet of Things applications where the data sources themselves are not completely accurate,” said Rosing.Among other real-world impacts coming out of her research, Rosing cites a longer battery life for smartphones. “My work involves optimizing the battery life, communication and storage of portable electronic devices, including cell phones, laptops and sensors,” she said. “I also work on large systems… optimizing smart servers to maximize quality of service while minimizing power consumption. This research translates into significant energy savings.”Prior to joining the CSE faculty in 2005, Rosing was a full-time researcher at HP Labs, focusing on low-power wireless media and embedded systems. While at HP Labs in Palo Alto, she finished her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at Stanford in 2000 and 2001, respectively. Rosing’s doctoral dissertation topic was “Dynamic Management of Power Consumption.” Prior to HP Labs and Stanford, she worked as a senior design engineer at Altera Corporation.In addition to her primary faculty appointment in CSE, the computer-engineering professor is an adjunct professor in ECE and she is affiliated with the Contextual Robotics Institute, Qualcomm Institute and San Diego Supercomputer Center, as well as six other UC San Diego research centers focused on Networked Systems (CNS), Microbiome Innovation (CMI), Wearable Sensors (CWS), Energy Research (CER), Sustainable Power and Energy, and the newly-launched Center for Machine-Integrated Computing and Security (MICS).
- Center for Networked Systems Member Elected ACM Fellow in Class of 2017 (2017)
A faculty member affiliated with the Center for Networked Systems (CNS), Computer Science and Engineering professor Geoffrey M. Voelker, is one of three UC San Diego faculty elected Fellows of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). ACM is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society.
Voelker was honored for “contributions to empirical measurement and analysis in systems, networking and security.”
“Professor Voelker has been a pioneer in the field of computer systems and networking,” said CSE chair Dean Tullsen. “He richly deserves the honor of being elected by his peers to be Fellows of the ACM.”
Elected ACM Fellows represent the top 1% of ACM members for outstanding accomplishments in computing and information technology. The induction of new ACM Fellows will take place on Saturday, June 23, 2018 in San Francisco at the annual ACM Awards Banquet.
Other Jacobs School faculty elected ACM Fellows’ Class of 2017 along with Voelker. They included CSE graphics and vision expert Ravi Ramamoorthi, and ECE/CSE professor Alexander Vardy, an expert in error-correcting codes and information theory.
The addition of Ramamoorthi, Vardy, and Voelker brings to 11 the number of ACM Fellows among active faculty in the CSE department. Prior honorees included Victor Vianu (2006), Pavel Pevzner (2010), Stefan Savage (2010), Dean Tullsen (2011), Andrew Kahng (2012), Yuanyuan Zhou (2013), Mihir Bellare (2013), and Rajesh Gupta (2016).
Professor Voelker joined the CSE faculty at UC San Diego nearly 18 years ago, in January 2000. He did so after earning his Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Washington the same year. Voelker completed his undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley in 1992, then moved to the University of Washington to get his M.S. (in 1995) and Ph.D.
Professor Voelker’s primary research interests include computer systems research in operating systems, distributed systems, networking, as well as mobile and wireless computing. Among his recent projects in networking and security, Voelker has worked in areas ranging from wireless networks to machine virtualization, cloud storage and cybercrime.
“My research is both experimental and empirical,” said Voelker. “As a result, a considerable amount of my work involves system and network measurement in addition to design, implementation and evaluation.” Exemplifying such work over his career, in 2017 Voelker accepted the Test of Time Award from the USENIX Security Conference, awarded for a landmark paper that won the conference’s Best Paper award 16 years earlier. The paper on “Inferring Internet Denial-of-Service Attacks” provided the only publicly available data quantifying DDoS activity on the Internet at the time. (Pictured: Voelker accepting the Test of Time Award from Stanford’s Dan Boneh at USENIX Security 2017.)
Voelker is a member of both the Systems and Networking research group in CSE, as well as the Security and Cryptography group. He is also affiliated with the Center for Networked Systems, Center for Wireless Communications, and Calit2’s Qualcomm Institute.
- Cybersecurity Expert Accepts Test-of-Time Award for Introducing Return-Oriented Programming (2017)
At the 24th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS 2017) in early November, University of California San Diego professor Hovav Shacham was recognized for a paper he presented 10 years earlier that introduced the field of “return-oriented programming.”
The CCS Test-of-Time Award this year went to Shacham’s CCS 2007 paper for its lasting impact on security research and practice during the past decade. The CCS awards committee chose just one paper out of the 55 that appeared at CCS 2007, and Shacham was the sole author on that paper. Accordingly, the Computer Science professor is the only recipient of this year’s award.
Applications running on a computer keep track of what task they are performing and what tasks they are to perform next in a region of memory called the stack. Programming errors in these applications often allow the stack to be overwritten, confusing the application and causing it to misbehave or crash. Worse, an attacker who carefully crafts malicious input can confuse the application into running code he injects. Fixing all bugs in all applications is a hopeless task, so systems designers have devised defenses that rule out such code-injection attacks, by distinguishing “good” application code from attacker-introduced code. Since attackers must inject new code to achieve their ends, the thinking goes, ruling out the introduction of new code rules out attacks.”
Security researchers working in industry had developed techniques that allowed them to exploit buggy programs and cause them to undertake certain “bad” behavior even in the presence of defenses against code injection. Shacham’s paper* unified and generalized these exploit techniques under the rubric of what he jokingly called “return-oriented programming.” A return-oriented attack doesn’t introduce any new code. Instead, it makes use of short snippets of the original, “good” program’s code. The attacker combines these snippets in clever ways that allow him to synthesize any behavior he desires from them. “An analogy to return-oriented programming is a kidnapper who puts together a ransom note with letters cut from magazine headlines,” said Shacham. “With all 26 letters gathered (and a photocopier), he can compose any message he wishes.”
Using return-oriented programming, the attacker puts together a set of building blocks from which he can synthesize any desired behavior. (Such a set is said to be “Turing-complete.”)
Shacham’s techniques (and his jokey name for them) have stuck, both in academia and in industry. Shacham’s paper has been cited more than 900 times. Where his original work considered only Intel’s x86 family of processors, researchers have since extended Return-Oriented Programming (ROP) to other popular processors, including the ARM processors that power nearly all smartphones. A 2014 Microsoft report (see Microsoft Security Intelligence Report, Volume 16) found return-oriented techniques used in more than 90% of exploits targeting Microsoft products. Microsoft, Intel, and ARM have all announced new security mechanisms in their products specifically to mitigate the threat of return-oriented programming.
“The Test-of-Time Award is the most significant honor we bestow on a paper because it is not simply a reflection that a piece of research was strong and well-received, but that a decade later it has had significant impact on the field,” said CSE professor Stefan Savage, who directs the Center for Networked Systems (CNS), in which Shacham in a member. “Hovav’s work on Return-Oriented Programming is an exemplar for such awards, because with one paper he made us all revisit our assumptions about what makes systems secure and the questions he posed in that work are still vibrant today. Moreover, this impact has not only been in academia, but Hovav’s ideas have
become a deep part of how real-world offense and defense is waged in computer security as well.”
The 2017 conference took place in Dallas, TX, from October 30 to November 3. Shacham accepted the Test-of-Time Award during the conference’s banquet and awards ceremony on November 1. CCS is the flagship annual conference of the Special Interest Group on Security, Audit and Control (SIGSAC) of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).
Shacham did much of his research on the award-winning paper while a postdoctoral researcher at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science in 2006 and 2007, but he completed and presented the paper at CCS after joining the UC San Diego faculty in fall 2007.
That same year, he also participated in California’s “Top-to-Bottom” security review of the voting machines certified for use by the state’s then-Secretary of State, Debra Bowen. Shacham was part of the team reviewing Hart InterCivic source code, and the report he co-authored was cited by Bowen in her ultimate decision to withdraw approval for use of the Hart voting machines in California elections.
Shacham earned his Ph.D. in computer science in 2005 from Stanford University. His doctoral dissertation was runner-up for the Computer Science Department’s Arthur L. Samuel Thesis Award.
As an advisor, Shacham’s two most-recent Ph.D. graduates went to work at Google (Wilson Lian) in 2016 and Apple (Keaton Mowery) in 2015. In 2012, his student Stephen Checkoway joined Johns Hopkins University as a research professor, and more recently joined the faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
*Shacham, Hovav, “The Geometry of Innocent Flesh on the Bone: Return-into-libc Without Function Calls (on the x86).” In Proceedings of the 14th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security, pp. 552-561. ACM, 2007 DOI: 10.1145/1315245.1315313
- Internet Society Honors CAIDA Director with Prestigious Service Award (2017)
CSE faculty-affiliate and alumna Kimberly (KC) Claffy (M.S. ‘91, Ph.D. ‘94) is the 2017 recipient of the prestigious Jonathan B. Postel Service Award. The Internet Society – a global non-profit dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the Internet – called Claffy a “visionary in the field of Internet research.”
Claffy was selected by an international award committee comprised of former Postel Award winners. The committee places particular emphasis on candidates who have supported and enabled others in addition to their own contributions. In selecting Claffy for the honor, the committee cited her “pioneering work on Internet measurement through the development of infrastructure and methodologies for data collection, analysis, and sharing around the world.”
The Internet Society presented the award, including a $20,000 honorarium and a crystal engraved globe, on November 10 at the 100th meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), held in Singapore all this week.
Claffy is the director and founder (in 1997) of the Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA), and a resident research scientist in the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) where CAIDA is based. Claffy is also a member of the Center for Networked Systems (CNS).
Her research interests span Internet topology, routing, security, economics, future Internet architectures and policy. Notably, Claffy is a pioneer in the field of measuring and understanding the Internet, not only through her research contributions, but her commitment to establishing and operating infrastructure to support large-scale data collection, curation, and sharing within the scientific research community.
Claffy was selected for the Postel Award by an international award committee comprised of former Postel Award winners. The committee placed particular emphasis on candidates who have supported and enabled others in addition to their own contributions.
The first of Claffy’s many papers on Internet traffic measurement and analysis was published in 1992, years before the Internet transitioned to the global, private sector-led network it is today. Since then, she has published dozens of papers and received numerous grants and awards for her work. In 1997, Claffy founded CAIDA as a center to conduct network research and build research infrastructure to handle large-scale data for the scientific research community.
“Simply put, Dr. Claffy’s long-standing and pioneering work has helped the global community better understand the Internet and how it is used,” explained Kathy Brown, President and CEO of the Internet Society, who presented the award. “In addition to leading the way in the field of Internet measurement and analysis itself, her dedication of resources to ensure widespread access to measurement data has allowed a range of disciplines -from network science and network operations to political science and public policy- to benefit from her efforts.”
In a profile of Claffy issued at the time of the award announcement, the scientist told the Internet Society that she hopes the past few decades of Internet development are miniscule when compared to where we are going. “I want to make the world safe for Internet science,” Claffy said. “The American people need better data – to understand what the Internet is, how it’s connected, and how data is being used.”
The Postel Award was established by the Internet Society to honor individuals or organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the data communications community. The award is focused on sustained and substantial technical contributions, service to the community, and leadership.
- CSE Alumna Accept Major Award in Electronic Design Automation (2017)
CSE alumna Ayse Coskun (Ph.D. ’09) is back in Southern California on Monday, November 13 accepting an award from the Council on Electronic Design Automation (CEDA). The 2017 IEEE CEDA Ernest S. Kuh Early Career Award will be given to Coskun during the opening session in Irvine of the 36th International Conference on Computer Aided Design (ICCAD), the premier conference devoted to technical innovations in electronic design automation (EDA).The Awards Committee cited Coskun’s “sustained and outstanding contributions to energy-efficient system-level design, including temperature-aware design and management, 3D-stacked system design, and management of large-scale computing systems.”
“I am delighted to accept the Early Career Award,” said Coskun, who is now a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Boston University (BU). “I am particularly honored because the award is available to a large number of outstanding nominees from both industry and academia, so the competition must have been intense.”
Coskun credits some of her success to her years at UC San Diego, where she worked in the System Energy Efficiency Lab (SEE Lab) led by her Ph.D. advisor, CSE Professor Tajana Simunic Rosing. “There is a direct line from my work with Prof. Rosing to my current research interests,” said Coskun. “I started my projects on proactive thermal management and 3D-stacked architectures while I was a Ph.D. student at UC San Diego.” Other current interests of Coskun include modeling and optimizing systems with new technologies (e.g., systems with optical networks or co-design with cutting edge nanoscale cooling devices) and large-scale system analytics for cloud and HPC systems.
The Early Career Award honors an individual who has made innovative and substantial technical contributions to the area of Electronic Design Automation in the early stages of his or her career. To qualify for consideration, candidates must be nominated no more than eight years after receiving their Ph.D. (or other terminal degree).
2017 has been a year of honors for the CSE alumna. Earlier this year, Coskun and her group accepted the Gauss Award. The collaborative BU and Sandia Labs team led by Coskun took home the award (and 3,000 euros) for their research paper on “Diagnosing Performance Variations in HPC Applications Using Machine Learning” at the 2017 ISC High Performance Conference (ISC 2017) last June in Frankfurt, Germany. This year Coskun also received a Dean’s Catalyst Award from BU – an award she also received in 2010 in her first year on the BU faculty.
Coskun also received two key grants in the past six months. She is the principal investigator of an interdisciplinary project with colleagues from BU, Brown University, and MIT. They received a $700,000 NSF grant over the summer for research on advanced processor cooling methods (with roughly one-third of the funding research in Coskun’s lab). A co-PI on the same project and collaborator with Coskun is also a CSE alumnus, Sherief Reda (Ph.D. ’06).
In the spring, Sandia National Laboratories awarded a $490,000 grant to Coskun and fellow BU professor Manuel Egele, They will use the funding to design automated analytics for improving efficiency and security of high-performance computing systems. Specifically, they aim to identify which data collected out of HPC systems would be useful for identifying performance characteristics, inefficiencies, and malicious behavior. Subsequently, Coskun and Egele will design automated methods to leverage these data to take runtime actions to improve efficiency and security.
Professor Coskun’s past recognitions include an NSF CAREER Award in 2012, and in 2011, a Best Paper Award from the High Performance Embedded Computing (HPEC) Conference. Also in 2011, she was named a Junior Faculty Fellow at the Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing at BU. Coskun is currently an associate editor of the IEEE Transactions on Computer Aided Design.
The CSE alumna is also looking to the future, notably March 2018 and the Design, Automation and Test in Europe conference (DATE 2018) in Dresden, Germany. Coskun is the Program Chair of this large pioneer conference in electronic design automation.
Coskun’s Ph.D. advisor, CSE Professor Rosing, will also be attending ICCAD in Irvine, CA. She is scheduled to speak at the 10th IEEE/ACM Workshop on Variability, Modeling and Characterization (VMC 2017), co-located with ICCAD.
- CSE Faculty Front and Center in New UC San Diego-IBM Artificial Intelligence Center (2017)
IBM and the University of California San Diego have announced a multi-year project to enhance quality of life and independence for aging populations through the new Artificial Intelligence for Healthy Living Center (AIHL), located on the campus of UC San Diego. The groundbreaking center will bring together the technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and life sciences knowledge of IBM and UC San Diego to promote critical research and applications in two thematic areas: Healthy Aging and the Human Microbiome.
Four co-directors of the AIHL Center are drawn from both IBM Research and UC San Diego. At UC San Diego, the overall center will be led by CSE/CNS professor Tajana Rosing, holder of the Fratamico Endowed Chair in the Computer Science and Engineering department, and Rob Knight, a Pediatrics and CSE faculty member and Director of the UC San Diego Center for Microbiome Innovation. IBM researchers Ruoyi Zhou and Ho-Cheol Kim will co-direct AIHL activities at the company..
The projects on Healthy Aging and the Human Microbiome will be jointly led by faculty experts in the respective fields. The leaders of the Healthy Aging project are Virginia de Sa, a professor in Cognitive Science, and CSE professor Laurel Riek. The Human Microbiome theme will be led by three UC San Diego faculty members: CSE and Pediatrics professor Rob Knight, CSE professor Larry Smarr (who also directs the Qualcomm Institute’s parent institute, the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, or Calit2), as well as Sandrine Miller-Montgomery, a Jacobs School of Engineering faculty member and executive director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation.
As part of the IBM-UC San Diego partnership, IBM will also join the UC San Diego Center for Microbiome Innovation as a platinum sponsor.
The new collaboration is part of the IBM Cognitive Horizons Network, an international consortium of leading universities working with IBM to develop technologies needed to help fulfill the promise of artificial intelligence (AI). According to the National Institute on Aging, cognitive health—the ability to clearly think, learn and remember—is an important component of brain health.
“This is a very prestigious relationship for UC San Diego, the first university on the West Coast to collaborate with the IBM Cognitive Horizons Network,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “Our campus, one of the top 15 research universities in the world, is home to changemakers whose innovation will help advance cognitive wellness to make a difference in our lives.”
The collaborative research initiative will use AI to comb through massive amounts of data to enable healthier living. Funds will be used to support faculty research; trainee stipends including opportunities for UC San Diego graduate and undergraduate students; administrative support; equipment; and corporate affiliation.
“We’re committed to collaborating with the best minds in academia to inspire the next generation of scientists by providing access to leading-edge AI tools and expertise to solve real problems that impact human lives,” said Dr. John Kelly III, IBM senior vice president, Cognitive Solutions and IBM Research. “This new collaboration with UC San Diego is the latest example of how we’re executing on this AI vision — and we are thrilled to bring our global AI research resources to Southern California to engage the wealth of local talent.”
The overall goals of the project are to develop and evaluate a cognitive framework for a supportive living environment that facilitates older adults to live independently longer and have a higher quality of life, and to discover and better understand the health implications of the human microbiome. During the project, the team anticipates that machine learning algorithms for sensing, understanding, modeling, personalizing and informing will be developed, with consideration to human-centered design, and testing in real world environments.
This initiative will bring together the campus’ top researchers in computer science, cognitive science, engineering and medicine, including psychiatry. A list of participating faculty can be found here.
Over the course of five years this project plans to, for the first time, study in depth the impact that a combination of daily habits, the environment, genetics and the microbiome have on the cognition of older adults. The project expects to model the subtle changes of aging, and will deploy personalized interventions via robots that help support wellness. The ultimate goal is to enable older adults to live independently longer and have a higher quality of life.
Through training experiences centered on the thematic areas, undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral scholars and project scientists will be positioned to gain knowledge, experience and expertise in these new and important areas of IBM advancement. Hands-on research experience with UC San Diego and IBM scientists is planned and will be complemented by jointly taught classes and seminars, as well as showcase opportunities for trainee and faculty projects.
- Stefan Savage receives prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship (2017)
Stefan Savage, a renowned cybersecurity expert and professor of computer science at the University of California San Diego, has been awarded a fellowship by the MacArthur Foundation. Perhaps better known as the MacArthur “genius” award, the prestigious no-strings attached five-year fellowship awards a total of $625,000 to each recipient.
The award recognizes individuals whose work has demonstrated exceptional creativity; promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments; and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.
Savage is being recognized for “identifying and addressing the technological, economic and social vulnerabilities underlying internet security challenges and cybercrime.”
“This award recognizes the creative and innovative research Stefan has been conducting since he joined the faculty here at UC San Diego 17 years ago,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “His work has had a tremendous impact on disrupting cybercriminal networks and on raising awareness about how vulnerable cars can be to cybersecurity threats. Stefan exemplifies UC San Diego’s culture of innovation that is positively impacting our global society.”
Savage has been on the faculty of the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering since 2000. He is a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and has held the Irwin Mark and Joan Klein Jacobs Chair in Information and Computer Science since 2016.
He found out that he received the award in a somewhat unusual way. The MacArthur Foundation had been trying to reach him by phone repeatedly. But Savage had not picked up because he didn’t recognize the number the calls were coming from. Ever the security expert, he eventually looked up the number and found that it was associated with the foundation. He called back. He then had to prove who he was before foundation representatives gave him the good news.
“I was in total shock,” he said in a phone interview. At this point, he hasn’t formulated a plan to spend the funds, he added.
“It’s wonderful to see Stefan Savage being recognized for his boundary breaking research. Stefan is an outstanding scholar, teacher and mentor. In addition, he embraces the hard work necessary to ensure that his teams’ security research makes real and lasting impacts on society,” said Albert P. Pisano, dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering.
The award recognizes three major research directions that have driven Savage’s work in the past two decades: understanding how cars are vulnerable to hacking; investigating the world of cybercrime and its economics; and creating new strategies to defend against malware.
Cybersecurity in cars
In 2010, Savage and colleagues were the first to demonstrate the ability to hack an automobile remotely—including taking control over the engine and brakes and monitoring conversations taking place within the car. In addition to working with car manufacturers to mitigate the immediate security threats, Savage and collaborators have also investigated how the idiosyncrasies of the automobile sector’s supply chains give rise to compromised car software—and make it harder to fix that software. Savage has advocated for better regulation of Internet-connected devices in cars, in order to create built-in defenses against hacking within these systems. Since then, the growing prevalence of physical “smart” devices in our lives has made network cybersecurity an increasingly urgent priority.
The economics of cybercrime
Savage is the lead researcher on a five-year, $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation to map out illicit activities taking place in the cybersecurity underworld and to understand how the mind of a cybercriminal works.
“Fighting cyber threats requires more than just understanding technologies and the risks they’re associated with; it requires understanding human nature,” Savage explained when the grant was awarded in 2012. “At its heart, cybersecurity is a human issue. It’s about conflict, and computers are merely the medium where this conflict takes place.”
He and colleagues were able to identify a critical bottleneck for spam email campaigns and online counterfeit goods transactions: only a few banks accept the credit card transactions necessary for these online ventures to monetize their activities. These findings allowed the drug and credit card companies to disrupt the business models of several counterfeit drug rings to such an extent that they collapsed.
Defenses against malware and distributed denial of service attacks
Denial-of-service attacks disable servers linked to the Internet by overloading them with messages, which usually contain false source addresses (“spoofing”) to conceal the location of the attacker. UC San Diego researchers, including Savage and fellow computer science professor Geoff Voelker, were early pioneers in studying this phenomenon. They used key features of those forged signatures to detect and track the attacks.
A 2001 study co-authored by Savage and Voelker with then Ph.D. student David Moore found that some attacks flooded their targets with “instantaneous loads” peaking at 600,000 message packets per second – crippling the infrastructure. This remains a current problem, as these attacks have crippled even the likes of Google and Amazon in recent years, topping at a reported 1.1 terabits per second in 2016. The 2001 study’s relevance today was demonstrated when it received the 2017 USENIX Security Test of Time Award this summer.
In addition, to impede the spread of fast-acting worms, which can quickly compromise an entire computer network, Savage, colleagues and students devised a method for automatically measuring unusual data patterns and identifying worm signatures (or recurring strings of code) across a network.
Savage received a bachelor’s degree in history from Carnegie Mellon University in 1991 and a Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 2002. He is part both of the Systems and Networking Group and the Security Group in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.
Savage has published more than 100 peer-reviewed journal and conference papers in the wide-ranging areas of the economics of e-crime, characterizing availability, automotive systems, routing protocols, and data center virtualization.
A Sloan Fellow, Savage is a recipient of the ACM Prize in Computing and ACM SIGOPS Mark Weiser Award. The latter is given annually to an individual who has demonstrated creativity and innovation in operating systems research. Savage is also co-director of the Center for Networked Systems at UC San Diego.
His Ph.D. students have gone on to work at prestigious academic institutions and Silicon Valley companies, including New York University, University College London, Google and Facebook.
Previous recipients of the MacArthur fellowship currently on the UC San Diego faculty are: Dean of the Division of Social Sciences Carol Padden, anthropology professor Guillermo Algaze, philosophy professor Nancy Cartwright and pharmacology professor Kun-Liang Guan. In addition, a number of emeritus faculty also have received the award in the past.
- Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship Celebrates Diversity in Computer Science (2017)
Sothyrak (Tee) Srey’s voice fills with excitement when he recalls the day he learned he had been awarded the Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship.
“I woke up, saw the email, and couldn’t believe it,” he says. “I immediately called my mom. It was so exciting. I never thought I would be the one to earn such an award.”
Originally from Cambodia, Srey enrolled at San Diego Mesa College before transferring to UC San Diego to study computer science. He describes his first year at the La Jolla campus as equally difficult and amazing. He lost confidence when he no longer maintained the 4.0 GPA that he held in community college, but was elated to land his first internship. Balancing work and classes was stressful, but he met new friends and colleagues who motivated him. Best of all, Srey found a community where he was able to just be himself.
“In Cambodia, the LGBT community is not visible. I could not be ‘out,’” he says. “When I got to UC San Diego, I wanted to be part of creating a safe and supportive community. I joined oSTEM, an organization for LBGTQ students in STEM, which has been a really positive experience. I want to show students that their sexual identity shouldn’t prevent them from achieving their goals and being successful.”
The Center for Networked Systems (CNS) at UC San Diego established the Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship in 2015 to encourage a more diverse community in computer science education and research. The award honors the memory of Alan Turing, the mathematician and cryptanalyst who founded the field of computer science. During World War II, he devised the techniques that led to breaking codes produced by Germany’s Enigma machine—a breakthrough credited with accelerating the Allied victory by more than a year. After the war, he was persecuted for being gay. He died by his own hand in 1954.
“Alan Turing is a giant in the pantheon of computer science pioneers and his story is both tragic and inspirational,” said computer science professor George Porter, associate director of CNS. “Our center wants to engage, support and recognize diverse communities in line with UC San Diego’s strategic plan, and naming the scholarship after Turing affirms our belief in the importance and future contributions that LGBT-supportive students will make to computer science and engineering.”
Srey is the second student to receive the scholarship. Last year, Valeria Gonzalez became the inaugural recipient. A third year transfer student majoring in computer engineering, Gonzalez says the award provided much more than financial support.
“It was really impactful to receive an award that recognizes the presence of LGBTQ folks in STEM communities,” Gonzalez said. “Computer science draws people from all different backgrounds, and I think it’s so important to demonstrate inclusivity and be supportive of students, especially those whose identities are often challenged and invalidated. Having people with different backgrounds, talents and perspectives will only make our field stronger and provide folks an environment where they can reach their full potential.”
Srey echoes this sentiment, and adds that the scholarship has given him greater confidence to pursue his goals. Ultimately, he wants to return to Cambodia and start a nonprofit that teaches underprivileged children to code. He also hopes to empower the LGBT community in Cambodia, building a safe space for LGBT youths.
“It’s an honor to be recognized with an award named for Alan Turing. He had such a big impact on computer science and we can only imagine what more he would have contributed to the field had he not been persecuted for his identity,” said Srey. “The scholarship has motivated me to work even harder. I believe I can use my knowledge to really make an impact.”
The Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship is open to undergraduates majoring in computer science or computer engineering who are active supporters of the LGBT community. The scholarship is awarded to students based on academic merit, with preference for students with demonstrated financial need.
The Center for Networked Systems, an interdisciplinary computer science research center at UC San Diego, established the scholarship with gifts from the center’s annual giving fund. The center is now looking for additional philanthropic support to create an endowment, which would enable the scholarship to be awarded in perpetuity.
All gifts contribute to the Campaign for UC San Diego.
Also posted here: Thisweek@ucsandiego
- CSE Ph.D. and Faculty Presence at USENIX Security Symposium 2017 (2017)
The 26th USENIX Security Symposium took place Aug. 16-18 in Vancouver, Canada, and security researchers in the CSE department were well represented on the conference program. Ph.D. students Craig Disselkoen, David Kohlbrenner, Zhaomo Yang and Brian Johannesmeyer had papers on the program, together with CSE faculty including Leo Porter, Dean Tullsen, Hovav Shacham, Sorin Lerner and research scientist Kirill Levchenko.
The three CSE papers on the program and abstracts for each are included below (with links to full papers):
Prime+Abort: A Timer-Free High-Precision L3 Cache Attack Using Intel TSX, by Craig Disselkoen, David Kohlbrenner, Leo Porter, and Dean Tullsen.
Last-Level Cache (LLC) attacks typically exploit timing side channels in hardware, and thus rely heavily on timers for their operation. Many proposed defenses against such side-channel attacks capitalize on this reliance. This paper presents PRIME+ABORT, a new cache attack which bypasses these defenses by not depending on timers for its function. Instead of a timing side channel, PRIME+ABORT leverages the Intel TSX hardware widely available in both server- and consumer-grade processors. This work shows that PRIME+ABORT is not only invulnerable to important classes of defenses, it also outperforms state-of-the-art LLC PRIME+PROBE attacks in both accuracy and efficiency, having a maximum detection speed (in events per second) 3× higher than LLC PRIME+PROBE on Intel’s Skylake architecture while producing fewer false positives.
On the Effectiveness of Mitigations against Floating-Point Timing Channels, by David Kohlbrenner and Hovav Shacham.
The duration of floating-point instructions is a known timing side channel that has been used to break Same-Origin Policy (SOP) privacy on Mozilla Firefox and the Fuzz differentially private database. Several defenses have been proposed to mitigate these attacks. We present detailed benchmarking of floating-point performance for various operations based on operand values. We identify families of values that induce slow and fast paths beyond the classes (normal, subnormal, etc.) considered in previous work, and note that different processors exhibit different timing behavior. We evaluate the efficacy of the defenses deployed (or not) in Web browsers to floating-point side channel attacks on SVG filters. We find that Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple’s Safari have insufficiently addressed the floating-point side channel, and we present attacks for each that extract pixel data cross-origin on most platforms. We evaluate the vector-operation based defensive mechanism proposed at USENIX Security 2016 by Rane, Lin and Tiwari and find that it only reduces, it does not eliminate, the floating-point side channel signal. Together, these measurements and attacks cause us to conclude that floating point is simply too variable to use in a timing security-sensitive context.
Dead Store Elimination (Still) Considered Harmful, by Zhaomo Yang, Brian Johannesmeyer, Sorin Lerner and Kirill Levchenko (and Aalborg University’s Anders Trier Olesen).
Dead store elimination is a widely used compiler optimization that reduces code size and improves performance. However, it can also remove seemingly useless memory writes that the programmer intended to clear sensitive data after its last use. Security-savvy developers have long been aware of this phenomenon and have devised ways to prevent the compiler from eliminating these data scrubbing operations.
In this paper, we survey the set of techniques found in the wild that are intended to prevent data-scrubbing operations from being removed during dead store elimination. We evaluated the effectiveness and availability of each technique and found that some fail to protect data-scrubbing writes. We also examined eleven open source security projects to determine whether their specific memory scrubbing function was effective and whether it was used consistently. We found four of the eleven projects using flawed scrubbing techniques that may fail to scrub sensitive data and an additional four projects not using their scrubbing function consistently. We address the problem of dead store elimination removing scrubbing operations with a compiler-based approach by adding a new option to an LLVM-based compiler that retains scrubbing operations. We also synthesized existing techniques to develop a best-of-breed scrubbing function and are making it available to developers.
CSE professor Deian Stefan was also at USENIX Security. He chaired a session on “Side-Channel Countermeasures” on the first day of the conference.
- Computer Scientists Develop Automated Tools to Uncover Advertising by Human Traffickers (2017)
Organizers of the 23rd ACM Special Interest Group on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining (SIGKDD) just wrapped up their five-day annual conference, which ended on August 17 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. One of the highest-profile presentations was a paper with co-authors from UC Berkeley, UC San Diego and New York University, in which they outlined automated approaches to detecting human traffickers based on analysis of their online classified sex advertisements.
At KDD 2017, first-author UC Berkeley Ph.D. student Rebecca S. Portnoff presented the paper, “Backpage and Bitcoin: Uncovering Human Trafficking,” which is partly based on her Ph.D. dissertation. Her co-authors include UC San Diego computer-science Ph.D. candidate Danny Yuxing Huang, who is getting ready to defend his doctoral dissertation on Bitcoin and “Using Crypto-Currencies to Track Cyber-Attacks, Speculative Investors and Human Traffickers.” Their co-authors include NYU professor Damon McCoy (a former postdoctoral researcher in the CSE department at UC San Diego) and his Ph.D. student Periwinkle Doerfler, as well as research scientist Sadia Afroz at the International Computer Science Institute.
The computer scientists argue that the sheer quantity of online classified sex advertising used by human traffickers “makes manual exploration and analysis unscalable,” especially with thousands of new ads posted daily. It’s also difficult to separate ads for independent sex workers from ads for a victim of sex trafficking. The paper notes that “almost no work has been done in building tools that can automatically process and classify these ads.” So the team focused on developing and demonstrating automatic techniques for clustering sex ads by owner (on the assumption that individual ads for a single sex worker would be less likely to be placed by a trafficker, whose ads more often offer the services of multiple sex workers).
Over a four-week period, the researchers carried out a study using a single sex-ad website, called Backpage, to demonstrate a proof of concept for automated approaches and how they can be used to find human traffickers. (After the research was done, Backpage discontinued its adult advertising section, though not the ads, which now appear in multiple sections of the website.)One technique was a machine-learning classifier algorithm using stylometry (the analysis of an individual’s writing style to identify authorship) to distinguish between ads posted by the same vs. different authors – with a 96 percent rate of accuracy. They also designed a linking technique that uses publicly available information from the Bitcoin mempool and blockchain in order to determine the timestamp indicating that payment for a sex ad was made to the timestamp of ads appearing in Backpage. If multiple ads linked to a single Bitcoin wallet, there is a strong likelihood that human trafficking might be involved.Using a sampling of 10,000 real adult ads from Backpage over four weeks, the researchers reported an 89 percent “true-positive” rate for grouping ads by author based on their automated author-identification techniques. The team also reported a high rate of success in linking ads they placed themselves to the corresponding transactions in the Bitcoin blockchain.Taken together, the automated techniques are believed to be the first to identify adult ads tied to human-trafficking rings by linking the ads to public information from Bitcoin. Said former UC San Diego postdoc Damon McCoy: “There are hundreds of thousands of these ads placed every year, and any technique that can surface commonalities between ads and potentially shed light on the owners is a big boost for those working to curb exploitation.”Ultimately, the study didn’t prove that the ads believed to be placed by human traffickers were actually tied to trafficking. Only law enforcement can pursue that linkage, but now they have some new automated tools to point investigators in specific directions.
- Computer Security Experts Honored for Research that Stands the Test of Time (2017)
Denial of service attacks (DoS) have crippled even the likes of Google and Amazon in recent years, topping at a reported 1.1 terabits per second in 2016. But they were a relatively unexplored phenomenon in the year 2000, when three computer scientists from the University of California San Diego set out to find out how prevalent they were.
Their research and resulting academic paper won the Best Paper award when it was presented at the 10th USENIX Security Symposium in 2001. At the time, the study provided the only publicly available data quantifying DoS activity on the Internet. Now, 16 years later, that same paper – “Inferring Internet Denial-of-Service Activity” – has received the 2017 USENIX Security Test of Time Award.
The award was announced today at the opening session of USENIX Security 2017 in Vancouver, Canada. UC San Diego Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) professor Geoffrey M. Voelker accepted the award on behalf of his co-authors, fellow CSE professor Stefan Savage, and their former Ph.D. student David Moore (C.Phil. ’05), who went on to track Internet activity as a project scientist at CAIDA, the Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis. Moore has worked at Google since 2012.
“Test of Time awards are important because they single out research that has a lasting impact despite the rapid change we’ve witnessed in the computing field,” said Dean Tullsen, chair of the CSE department at UC San Diego. “Stefan Savage and Geoff Voelker have done continuously groundbreaking work in cybersecurity for almost two decades, and this award underscores the department’s well-deserved reputation for innovation in areas including security as well as systems and networking.”
The Test of Time award recognizes outstanding work in security research that has had a lasting impact on the community. To qualify, a paper must have been presented at a USENIX conference at least 10 years earlier.
Denial-of-service attacks disable servers linked to the Internet by overloading them with messages, which usually contain false source addresses (“spoofing”) to conceal the location of the attacker. The UC San Diego researchers used key features of those forged signatures to detect and track the attacks. The study found that some attacks flooded their targets with “instantaneous loads” peaking at 600,000 message packets per second – crippling the infrastructure.
“Quantifying the problem was always meant to be the first step toward stopping or at least curbing attacks of this kind,” recalled UC San Diego’s Savage, who co-directs the Center for Networked Systems (CNS) at UC San Diego. “Our 2001 study helped network engineers understand the nature of recent attacks and to study long-term trends and recurring patterns of attacks.” On Thursday, Savage will appear on a panel to discuss distributed denial-of-service attacks.
In the 2001 paper, the co-authors also developed a novel technique to cut through the clutter of Internet data. Called “backscatter analysis,” the technique involves observing packets from machines that fall victim to DoS attacks by sending responses to the forged IP addresses. By observing these backscatter packets at a statistically significant portion of IP addresses, backscatter analysis can quantify the scope of a DoS attack.
For their study, Moore, Voelker and Savage looked at three week-long datasets in February 2001 to assess the number, duration and focus of attacks, and to characterize their behavior. In the space of one week, they observed more than 12,000 attacks against more than 5,000 distinct targets, ranging from well-known e-commerce companies such as Amazon, to small foreign Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and – remember, this is 16 years ago – dial-up connections. “At the time,” said Voelker, “our work was the only publically available data quantifying denial-of-service activity in the Internet.”
The technique produced an estimate of worldwide malicious DoS activity – with approximately 4,000 sites experiencing DoS attacks weekly (as of 2000), and over 12,000 attacks over three weeks.
The 2001 study also was among the first to use the quantitative data to characterize the victims of DoS attacks, which seem almost quaint in retrospect. “Only five percent of attacks targeted infrastructure such as routers and name servers,” explained Voelker. “There were a few very large attacks against broadband, and up to 20 percent of attacks were targeted at home machines – evidence that minor DoS attacks were used for personal vendettas.”
The CSE department at UC San Diego is no stranger to winning Test of Time awards handed out by USENIX at a few of its major conferences. Already in 2017, CSE professor George Porter shared in the Test of Time award at the USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI) for “X-Trace: A Pervasive Network Tracing Framework”, originally published at NSDI 2007. And in 2016, former CSE professor Amin Vahdat and his co-authors received the NSDI Test of Time award for a paper presented at NSDI 2006.
The 26th USENIX Security Symposium takes place Aug. 16 to 18 in Vancouver, Canada. UC San Diego’s CSE department is well represented on the conference program. Faculty including Leo Porter, Dean Tullsen, Hovav Shacham, Sorin Lerner and research scientist Kirill Levchenko have papers on the program:
- Prime+Abort: A Timer-Free High-Precision L3 Cache Attack Using Intel TSX , by Craig Disselkoen, David Kohlbrenner, Leo Porter, and Dean Tullsen
- On the Effectiveness of Mitigations against Floating-Point Timing Channels , by David Kohlbrenner and Hovav Shacham
- Dead Store Elimination (Still) Considered Harmful , by Zhaomo Yang, Brian Johannesmeyer, Sorin Lerner and Kirill Levchenko (and Aalborg University’s Anders Trier Olesen)
CSE professor Deian Stefan will chair a session on “Side-Channel Countermeasures” on the first day of the conference.
- CSE-Trained Expert on Program Verification Featured in Communications of the ACM (2017)
CSE alumnus Zachary Tatlock (Ph.D. ’14) is now a professor of computer science at the University of Washington. In an article about “hacker-proof coding” in the August issue of Communications of the ACM, the publication notes that as Tatlock was finishing up his dissertation at UC San Diego, the then-Ph.D. candidate gave a talk at UW about his thesis research on program verification (under his advisor, Sorin Lerner). The lead engineer for the UW medical center’s radiotherapy team was in the audience and asked Tatlock how they could apply verification to that system.
Recalling the event three years later, Tatlock reckons that the question “probably helped me get hired.” He joined UW shortly after and has continued to work with the medical center. In the case of the radiotherapy system, he noted that because the system was written in a variety of languages, different techniques had to be deployed to verify the software in its entirety.
According to Esther Shein, who wrote the CACM article, “The system has about a dozen components, each with different levels of criticality.” She quotes Tatlock saying that “software for logging an event, for example, is not as critical as software that verifies the beam power has not become too high. What we want to be able to do is ensure the reliability of all pieces. We want to make sure there are no bugs that can affect the parts that are critical.”
The medical center wanted to prevent software errors that might prove fatal, given that the radiotherapy system “shoots high-powered radiation beams into the heads of patients to treat cancers of the tongue and esophagus,” writes Shein. To check its heaviest-duty components, the medical center uses DeepSpec principles, which are costly and time-consuming because they require highly-trained technicians to prove they’re functioning correctly.
To assess less-critical parts of the system, the medical center uses “lighter-weight, less powerful techniques to ensure the correctness,” said Tatlock. “So the guarantees for those parts aren’t as strong, but it’s a better engineering trade-off.”
The CACM article goes on to note that Tatlock and colleagues have built a suite of tools the engineers use in their regular development process. “They include a checker that allows them to formally describe the entire radiotherapy system to a computer and ensure the key components are individually correct. The researchers are now working on building verified replacements for those parts of the system.” The system is also checked daily. “We want to make sure the code written by the engineers on that team will correctly turn off the beam if anything goes wrong,” Tatlock told the publication. “The work is similar to DeepSpec’s; it just emphasizes a different degree of automation.”
- With Help from UC San Diego Grad Student, Google Estimates $25 Million in Ransomware Payouts (2017)
$25,253,505. That is the best estimate to date of how much money was paid by victims of ransomware attacks in the past two years in order to unlock their computer disks and get their data back. As a result, ransomware – malware that encrypts victims’ data and demands a payoff in exchange for the key to unlock the data – “has become one of the largest cybercrime revenue sources,” according to Google presenters at Black Hat USA 2017 conference in Las Vegas this week.
Participants in the study on “Tracking Ransomware End to End” included researchers from UC San Diego, New York University (NYU), and the blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis. (Blockchain is the public, decentralized ledger of transactions in Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency most widely used to settle ransomware demands.)
Rather than produce an academic paper first, the team opted to make a splash at the conference with a presentation to get the word out. The presenter: Google’s Kylie McRoberts. Now in its 20th year, Black Hat is the world’s leading information security event series.
The UC San Diego participant in the study, Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) Ph.D. candidate Danny Yuxing Huang, is also affiliated with the Center for Networked Systems (CNS). “We study the economics of operating ransomware: from maintaining infrastructure, generating revenue, to getting victims to pay,” noted Huang, adding that “our goals are to understand the business model of ransomware, and estimate their revenue and potential profitability.”
Huang tracked bitcoins that moved from potential victims to ransomware, and from ransomware to exchanges (as possible liquidation). “By masquerading as a part of the ransomware infrastructure,” explained Huang, “I also gathered statistics on infected computers, such as the number of infections over time, and the geographical distribution of infected machines.”
Google’s other university collaborator was Damon McCoy, a former postdoctoral scientist in CSE at UC San Diego from 2009 to 2011, who is now an assistant professor of computer science in NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering.
Together, the researchers investigated 300,000 files from 34 different types of ransomware and tracked payments on the blockchain to analyze the scale and the amount of money paid by victims.
In the presentation, Google’s McRoberts reported that search queries for the term “ransomware” have increased by 877 percent since 2016, the first year when ransomware became a multi-million-dollar business (see chart).
Of the $25 million in payments by Internet users to get their data back, some ransomware attacks generated more revenue than others. Only a fraction of the total was paid by victims of the widely publicized WannaCry ransomware in 2017, despite – or because of – the extensive damage it caused. Developed originally by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), WannaCry crippled hospitals (including Britain’s National Health Service), communications providers and some 10,000 other organizations as well as an estimated 200,000 individuals in more than 150 countries. Even so, payouts in response to WannaCry topped out at $140,000 – making it only the 11th-largest ransomware to date in terms of victim payouts. The Google presenter dubbed WannaCry an “impostor,” saying it should really be classified as “wipeware.” The study found that victims learned early on that the malware effectively wiped out the data because the software was unable to later unlock the victim’s computer even if the ransom was paid. The study noted that a variant on WannaCry called NotPetya was also wipeware, for the same reason, but also concluded that “wipeware pretending to be ransomware is on the rise.”
Less publicized ransom demands launched in 2016, on the other hand, generated far more income for the attackers than WannaCry, notably the Locky ($7.8 million to date) and Cerber ($6.9 million) ransomware attacks.
Locky was the first ransomware to make over $1 million per month. It has largely run its course, but left its mark on the criminal marketplace because it brought “ransoms to the masses”, according to the presentation at Blackhat USA. “Locky’s big advantage was the decoupling of the people who maintain the ransomware from the people who are infecting machines,” said NYU professor McCoy. “Locky just focused on building the malware and support infrastructure. Then they had other botnets spread and distribute the malware, which were much better at that end of the business.”
The same botnet that distributed Locky now also distributes Cerber and other ransomware built on Locky’s model. Cerber continues to rake in roughly $200,000 a month in ransom, as it has for more than a year, buoyed by its creation of an affiliate model that is “taking the world by storm,” noted Google.
According to the study, victims of all ransomware paid ransom by purchasing Bitcoins on at least 10 exchanges. The single largest market, LocalBitcoins.com, had 37% of the market in the two-year period.
The $25 million number in the new study reflects total ransomware payouts by victims. It is unclear, however, how much of the money made it back to the original authors of that ransomware.
UC San Diego contributor Danny Huang is nearing completion of his Ph.D. under advisors Alex Snoeren and research scientist Kirill Levchenko. He is scheduled to mount the final defense of his dissertation at the end of August.
- CSE Graduate Students in Center for Networked Systems End Academic Year with Ph.D. Degrees and New Jobs (2017)
As of early July, 15 Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) Ph.D. candidates affiliated with the Center for Networked Systems (CNS) have graduated or are expected to graduate in the academic year from October 2016 through September 2017. Unlike last year, when half the Ph.D. graduates went to work for Google, there is much more variety in their waiting employers this year. Here’s a recap of this year’s CNS graduating Ph.D. class (in reverse chronological order), starting with three students tentatively scheduled to defend their doctoral dissertations between now and the end of August as members of the Ph.D. “Class of ’17”.
Yuxing (Danny) Huang (Ph.D. ’17) is interviewing for postdoc positions as he puts finishing touches to his dissertation. His final defense is scheduled for August 31 before his co-advisors Alex Snoeren and Kirill Levchenko, who co-chair his faculty committee. Huang uses economics to study malicious behaviors on the Internet, including the economics of a wide variety of ransomware to better understand victims and how many of them pay in response to ransom demands. Huang received his B.A. in Computer Science from Williams College in 2011, the same year he enrolled in the Ph.D. program at UC San Diego. He did back-to-back summer internships at Google in 2014 and 2015.
On August 28, Tianyin Xu (Ph.D. ’17) will defend his dissertation on hardening cloud and datacenter systems against configuration errors, but he already has a great job lined up. He will become an assistant professor of Computer Science next January at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), where he accepted a tenure=track appointment pending completion of his Ph.D. Xu’s advisor, YY Zhou, taught at UIUC for seven years before joining the UC San Diego faculty (and CNS) in 2009. For his part, Xu’s research focuses on the reliability and security of computer systems, and in particular, large-scale software systems deployed in the cloud and in datacenters. In 2017 Xu received CSE’s Doctoral Award for Research, and last November he received the Jay Lepreau Best Paper Award at the 12th USENIX Symposium on Operating Systems Design and Implementation (OSDI 2016) for his paper on “Early Detection of Configuration Errors to Reduce Failure Damage.” In 2013 and 2016, Xu presented at CNS Research Reviews, and he did summer internships in 2013 and 2015 at former CNS member company NetApp.
This fall, Eric Seidel (M.S., Ph.D. ’16, ’17) will join Bloomberg LP in New York after defending his Ph.D. dissertation on August 2. His research interests include programming languages, data and ubiquitous computing. As a graduate research assistant in the lab of his advisor Ranjit Jhala, Seidel built a tool to synthesize counter-examples to type errors. The tool performs type-checking along with execution, and produces trace demonstrating of how a program gets stuck. Seidel also worked on a refinement type-based verifier for Haskell. Together with Jhala and recent CNS and CSE alumna Niki Vazou, Seidel implemented an efficient testing framework using refinement types to prune the input search space. Seidel received a B.S. in Computer Science from the City College of New York in 2012.
In addition to the three Ph.D. candidates preparing for their all-important dissertation defenses in August, 12 other researchers in CNS-affiliated labs have already completed and defended their dissertations as of July for the 2016-2017 academic year.
Yanqin Jin (Ph.D. ’17) worked in the Non-Volatile Systems Laboratory under his advisor, Steven Swanson. His research interests include storage system design and implementation with modern storage technologies, as well as database and filesystem optimization for modern storage devices (including solid-state drives). Jin’s dissertation focused on “Modernizing Storage Device Interface for Performance and Reliability,” and his faculty committee was co-chaired by Swanson and co-advisor Yannis Papakonstantinou. His advisors also co-authored (with Jin as first author) a paper on key-addressable multi-log solid-state drives (KAML), which he presented at the 2017 IEEE Symposium on High Performance Computer Architecture (HPCA 2017). Early in graduate school, Jin did three summer internships with leading technology companies: Twitter (2012), Oracle (2011) and Microsoft (2010). The Microsoft internship took place in Beijing immediately Jin completed his undergraduate degree at China’s Tsinghua University.
Yashar Asgarieh (Ph.D. ’17) now works at NVIDIA after completing his Ph.D. under advisor Bill Lin. His dissertation explored “Making the On-Chip World Smaller with Low-Latency On-Chip Networks”. With the proliferation of cores since the first dual-core processor, embedded multi-cores today can have over 100 cores. Asgarieh focused on how to improve on the state-of-the-art shared Network on Chip (NoC) as the best way to connect cores. His solution: to “make the on-chip world appear smaller by providing extremely low-latency networks that can make faraway resources appear much closer.” While in grad school, Asgarieh did summer internships at Facebook and the Embedded Systems Lab at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland. Asgarieh did his undergraduate degree and M.Sc. in Computer Engineering at the Iran University of Science and Technology and Sharif University of Technology, respectively.
Alan Leung (M.S., Ph.D. ’13, ’17) developed novel algorithms and implementations in the areas of compiler design, program analysis, program verification and program synthesis. Under advisor Sorin Lerner, Leung successfully defended his dissertation on “Constructing Parsers by Example via Interactive Program Synthesis.” In his thesis, Leung argued that “it is possible to make parsing more accessible by combining interactive visual feedback with the programming-by-example paradigm.” Prior to UC San Diego, Leung spent five years as a microprocessor design engineer at Intel, where he designed cache memory systems for two generations of Itanium microprocessors that successfully went to market. Leung did his undergraduate degree at Cornell University.
Xinxin Jin (Ph.D. ‘17) is working for Whova, the event-app startup founded by her advisor, YY Zhou, who also ran the Opera operating systems lab where Jin did research in software / hardware reliability, operating systems and mobile computing. Jin wrote her dissertation on “Tooling and Language Support for Robust and Easy Network Programming of Mobile Applications.” “I build infrastructure and mobile apps to make them run reliably and faster,” says Jin. “My mission is to revolutionize event networking and management via technology.” Jin likes the atmosphere and size of a startup, so instead of applying for a faculty position, she opted to stay with Whova. She could also have applied to a large technology company (like Microsoft, where she did a summer internship in 2015), but according to advisor YY Zhou, “Xinxin feels more comfortable in an entrepreneurial environment.” Prior to arriving at UC San Diego in 2011, Jin completed her M.S. from Peking University in 2011 and a B.S. from the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications in 2008.
In February, Daniel Ricketts (Ph.D. ’17) defended his dissertation on “Verification of Sampled-Data Systems using Coq” (a proof assistant). His advisor, Sorin Lerner, chaired the dissertation committee, which included fellow CNS member Ranjit Jhala. Following completion of his Ph.D., Ricketts joined Oracle as a software engineer in the greater Seattle area. His goal: to apply formal verification to practical problems in industry. At UC San Diego Ricketts did research on formal verification of cyber-physical systems using the Coq proof assistant. As a graduate student, Ricketts worked on the VeriDrone project, which involved a formal verification process to ensure safety of quadcopter software.
Michael Wei (M.S., Ph.D. ’12, ’17) is now a postdoctoral researcher at VMware, where he previously did an internship during graduate school. Wei is a past recipient of NSF Graduate Research Fellowships (in 2011 and 2012) and he pursued research in embedded systems, non-volatile systems, computer architecture, security, and energy. Prior to completing his Ph.D, Wei worked on reliably erasing solid-state disks (SSDs) under his advisor, Steven Swanson. In his dissertation on “Corfu: A Platform for Scalable Consistency,” Wei made the case for why the proposed Corfu platform simplifies development without sacrificing performance. “Consistency and scalability are often seen to be at odds with one another,” explained Wei, “and many popular data stores have traded consistency for scalability as part of a movement known as NoSQL… [which] makes writing reliable, feature-rich distributed applications much more difficult.” In addition to Swanson, Wei’s Ph.D. committee included other CNS member faculty, including George Porter, Alex Snoeren, and Geoffrey Voelker.
Pietro Mercati (Ph.D. ’17) is now a research scientist at Intel Corp. He completed his Ph.D. under advisor Tajana Rosing, with a dissertation on “Power, Thermal, Reliability and Variability Management of Mobile Devices.” In it, Mercati proposed the design and implementation of a novel unified framework for the comprehensive dynamic management of power, temperature reliability and variability in mobile systems subject to user experience requirements. As Mercati outlined in his thesis, the proposed strategy meets user experience requirements while extending battery lifetimes by at least 25 percent and achieving up to 35 percent savings in power consumption at the device level (and up to 100 percent improved performance on cluster architectures). Mercati completed his Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees at the University of Bologna (Italy) prior to arriving at UC San Diego in 2013.
Yang (Robert) Liu (Ph.D. ’17) is a principal engineer for R&D engineering at Western Digital. He did his dissertation on “Systems and Algorithm Support for Efficient Heterogeneous Computing with GPUs” under advisor Steven Swanson. Liu worked for Swanson in the Non-Volatile Systems Laboratory (NVSL). Liu’s research explored the design space in next-generation storage systems, while rethinking the interface between software and hardware in computer systems (e.g., improving the performance of the MapReduce framework by applying new hardware and better scheduling). Liu also worked previously with CNS member YY Zhou on software reliability, and did a summer internship at Broadcom. Prior to UC San Diego, he earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees from China’s Beihang University and Tsinghua University, respectively.
Of all the Ph.D. graduates affiliated with CNS this year, only three completed their dissertation defense and other requirements by the end of December, thus allowing them to put 2016 as their graduating year on their CVs. They included:
Meenakshi Sundaram Bhaskaran (M.S., Ph.D. ’12, ’16) also worked in NVSL under his advisor, Steven Swanson. He completed the degree in Computer Engineering in December 2016 with a dissertation on “Micro-Architecture and Systems Support for Emerging Non-Volatile Memories.” In it, Bhaskaran proposed “Non-Blocking Load (NBLD), an instruction set extension to mitigate pipeline stalls from long-latency memory accesses… NBLD triggers the execution of application-specific code once data is resident in the cache, effectively hiding the latency of memory.” Prior to UC San Diego, Bhaskaran was an engineer at SanDisk India in Bangalore, after completing his undergraduate degree at Anna University (also in India).
Niki Vazou (Ph.D. ’16) is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland in the Programming Language group after completing her Ph.D. last December. Her research continues to focus on designing usable program verifiers that can be integrated into standard software development. Her dissertation under advisor Ranjit Jhala, “Liquid Haskell: Haskell as a Theorem Prover”, drew on expertise in static program verification, type systems, type inference, abstract interpretation, functional programming, Haskell, Liquid Types and more. In it, Vazou presented LiquidHaskell, a usable, static formal verifier for Haskell programs, which she used to verify more than 10,000 lines of real-world Haskell programs. As Vazou noted in her abstract, “LiquidHaskell serves as a prototype verifier in a future where formal techniques will be used to facilitate, instead of hinder, software development.” In 2015 Vazou received the CSE Graduate Award for Research. The previous year, she won a Microsoft Graduate Research Fellowship (after doing two internships at Microsoft Research facilities in Washington State and at Cambridge in Britain). In 2016 Vazou did a summer internship at Awake Networks in Mountain View, CA, where she used LiquidHaskell to verify correctness on Awake’s production code base.
Ming Woo-Kawaguchi (B.S., M.S., Ph.D. ’05, ’08, ‘16) is a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard University. He completed his Ph.D. in late 2016 after having done most of his work as a graduate student researcher in the Programming Systems group in CSE from 2005 to 2012. From 2014 to 2016 Woo-Kawaguchi was on the technical staff of the Draper Laboratory near Boston before he decided to complete his Ph.D. Under advisor Ranjit Jhala, Woo-Kawaguchi did his dissertation on “High-Level Liquid Types ,” in which he proposed “several augmentations of the Liquid Types method of automatic program verification for uniformly describing high-level specifications and for verifying that source doe is correct with respect to such specifications.” In addition to Jhala, two other CNS members – Sorin Lerner and Geoffrey Voelker – sat on the five-person committee that quizzed Woo-Kawaguchi in his belated but final defense of his dissertation last October.
- CNS Awards Travel Grants to Two Graduate Students in Computer Science (2017)
For female students in particular, attending the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing can be a critical launching pad for careers in computer science in either academia or private industry. For that reason, UC San Diego’s Center for Networked Systems (CNS) provides funding each year to help defray the cost of attending the Grace Hopper Celebration for one or two deserving women who represent the next generation of female computer scientists who want to play leadership roles in helping other women make it in computer science.
Looking ahead to the 2017 conference Oct. 4-6 in Orlando, FL, CNS has picked two deserving students to receive this year’s CNS Grace Hopper Travel Grants. Both Ariana Mirian and Stephanie Chen are graduate students: Chen is working on her M.S. in Computer Science with a focus on Machine Learning, and Mirian is a Ph.D. student co-advised by CNS Director Stefan Savage and CSE Professor Geoffrey Voelker.
Ariana Mirian is the incoming president of the Graduate Women in Computing (GradWiC) group at UC San Diego for the 2017-2018 academic year (taking over as president from Ailie Fraser). She also received an award for Contributions to Diversity, which she accepted recently at the CSE Departmental Awards Ceremony. Mirian is going into her second year of the Ph.D. program, with research interests in security and privacy, notably at the intersection of empirically-based measurement and usable security. In addition to CNS, she is also affiliated with the Center for Evidence-based Security Research (led by her advisor Stefan Savage) as well as the Systems and Networking group and the Crypto and Security group. Mirian completed her undergraduate degree in computer science at the University of Michigan.
Stephanie Chen is the outgoing Vice President of GradWiC. During the spring quarter, Stephanie Chen was head teaching assistant for Professor Bill Griswold’s course on Software Engineering (CSE 110). This summer she is doing a software engineering internship at Intuit in San Diego, where she serves as a back-end developer on Intuit’s Data Science Decision Engine team. Last summer, Chen interned at SPAWAR Systems Center, also in San Diego. She completed B.A. (Environmental Economics) and B.S. (Business Administration) degrees from UC Berkeley. Chen subsequently worked for Google for four years, primarily for its YouTube unit, before enrolling in UC San Diego to earn a computer science degree (which she expects to complete in the fall or winter quarter).
Both students will be part of a large delegation of UC San Diego faculty and students, most of them from the Computer Science and Engineering department, including many who have made a point of attending the Grace Hopper event several years runnning.
Travel Grant recipients Chen and Mirian will report back to CNS colleagues after the conference.
- CSE Ph.D. Candidate Accepts Tenure-Track Faculty Position at University of Illinois (2017)
When he graduated from China’s Nanjing University, Tianyin Xu was turned down by 24 graduate schools in the United States. The following year he applied and was accepted into the Ph.D. program at the University of California San Diego. Now, almost six years later, Xu is finishing his Ph.D. this summer, and top-notch schools were competing to offer the soon-to-be alumnus a tenure-track faculty position. In the end, Xu received five offers and accepted the one from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), which he’ll join as an assistant professor next January in the Department of Computer Science.
“I loved all the schools that made offers, which made the decision-making process excruciating,” observed CSE Ph.D. candidate Xu. “In the end, I had to follow my gut.” While he had offers from Pennsylvania State, UC Santa Cruz, UC Santa Barbara and Canada’s University of Waterloo, Xu selected UIUC partly because his advisor, CSE Prof. Yuanyuan (YY) Zhou, taught there for seven years before joining the UC San Diego faculty in 2009.
“Many of the senior students in Professor Zhou’s group had previously studied at UIUC,” added Xu, “and they have helped me tremendously in my graduate studies. All of them spoke highly of the Illinois program.” Xu also thinks that UIUC had more confidence in his abilities because he had worked so closely with his “rock star advisor.” “I believe part of the reason UIUC made me the offer is that Professor Zhou was so successful and truly respected there, and all of the faculty I met during the hiring process held her in very high esteem.”
“I am very proud of him,” observed Zhou, who holds the Qualcomm Endowed Chair in Mobile Systems in the Jacobs School of Engineering. “Tianyin Xu is joining an elite group of recent graduates from our operating systems group, including five of them who took tenure-track faculty positions at top schools.” Those professors include UC San Diego CSE alumnus Ryan Huang (Ph.D. ’16), who becomes an assistant professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University this July after doing a postdoc at Microsoft Research.
“All of them are doing extremely well,” added Zhou, “so they have paved the way for Xu and hopefully future Ph.D. graduates from our program who want to make careers in academia.”
UIUC may also have been attracted to Xu’s research into reliability and security of computer systems, including the reliability of large-scale software systems deployed in the cloud and in datacenters. “My Ph.D. work focuses on tackling one dominant cause of cloud and datacenter failures in the real world – configuration errors,” said Xu. “These errors are notoriously fatal and hard to deal with using traditional fault-tolerance techniques. Currently we lack neat techniques that can work with these gigantic systems to prevent catastrophic failures, so research in this area is critically important and in demand.”
Hardening cloud and datacenter systems against configuration errors is the topic of Xu’s doctoral dissertation, which he expects to defend in early August.
Xu received CSE’s 2017 Doctoral Award for Research at the end of the academic year. Among other honors, last November he received the Jay Lepreau Best Paper Award at the 12th USENIX Symposium on Operating Systems Design and Implementation (OSDI 2016) for his paper on “Early Detection of Configuration Errors to Reduce Failure Damage.” Xu was first author on that paper as well as another in May 2017, which he presented to the 35th Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2017). The topic: “How Do System Administrators Resolve Access-Denied Issues in the Real World.” Xu has also presented at research reviews of UC San Diego’s Center for Networked Systems (CNS) in 2016 and 2013, and he did summer research internships in 2013 and 2015 at NetApp, Inc., where he researched storage products and observed system users.
Xu has been a teaching assistant in both graduate and undergraduate courses at UC San Diego, serving a variety of CSE faculty including his advisor as well as Geoffrey Voelker, Leo Porter, Stefan Savage, Mohan Paturi and Sanjoy Dasgupta. In the three most recent courses he TA’d, Xu happily notes that he finished with recommendations from 98.6 percent of students (75 percent with “strong” recommendations). In his teaching statement intended for the universities where he interviewed for faculty jobs, Xu said one of his primary goals was to stress relevance as the key to engaging students in learning. “I strive to relate OS concepts to real-world, everyday problems beyond OS kernels,” he explained. “I talk about how Google manages resources and schedules jobs at a massive scale, how Spark drives its huge success based on the disk-memory trade-off, and why Android does not swap but kills app processes when running out of memory. Students enjoy such discussions and become more engaged.” At UIUC, Xu expects to teach operating systems and software engineering, and he plans to incorporate interactive and hands-on projects along with regular coursework.
Prior to starting the Ph.D. program at UC San Diego, from 2003 to 2010, Xu studied Computer Science at Nanjing University, where he completed B.S. and M.S. degrees..
With his faculty job search now over, Xu is particularly thankful to the many people in CSE who provided help, support and encouragement throughout the “exhausting and sometimes frustrating” process. “Professor Voelker revised every single slide of my job talk and gave me countless tips and advice, while professors Savage and Victor Vianu did mock interviews with me,” recalled Xu. “Professors Sorin Lerner, Philip Guo, Alex Snoeren, Aaron Schuman and Bill Griswold and others helped me with my job talk or allowed me to practice delivering my talk in their research seminars, while professors Zhou, Voelker, Savage and Scott Klemmer wrote recommendation letters for me.”
“Above all, I owe much to my advisor, Professor Zhou,” stressed Xu. “She believed in a student who had been rejected by most of the schools he applied to for graduate school, and transformed him into a Ph.D. candidate capable of receiving faculty offers from major schools and computer-science programs.”
- After 10 Weeks, CSE Students Demonstrate 3D, Networked Multiplayer Games (2017)
CSE professor Geoffrey M. Voelker teaches CSE 125 each spring, The course on “Software System Design and Implementation” gave 32 seniors an opportunity to showcase everything they learned in the past four years. Nominally, the course is a 10-week project to build a large, complex, distributed software system with real-time constraints. Specifically, the teams of six or seven students spend the quarter building a distributed, real-time, 3D multiplayer game (hence the popular reference to CSE 125 as being “the videogame course”). Each final team demonstration doubles as the team members’ final exams.
As finals week was winding down for most CSE students, nearly 200 people showed up on Friday, June 9, to see how much the five teams were able to achieve in the 2017 edition of CSE 125. All of the teams completed the assignment, with varying but largely impressive results. In one case, the demo had to be without accompanying audio because of a last-minute glitch in moving the game to a demo computer in the Qualcomm Institute auditorium in Atkinson Hall. For each demo, at least two players were picked at random from the audience to play against members of the game’s development team. All four players for each demo were positioned at workstations set up on the stage of the auditorium, with video of the game displayed on the big screen above the players — and streamed in real time over the Internet. [Editor’s note: An archived version of the video stream is now available for on-demand viewing here .]
The seven members of Team 9hack Studios produced a game called “Sandma” (originally “Dungeon Party”). Kavin Srithongkham led the presentation, and his fellow team members included Ethan Chan, Daniel Lee, Richard Lin, Christiane Pham, Austin Puk and Joshua Tang. They divided into three teams: networking, graphics and artists. “We wanted to create a game that contains both the sense of exploration and discovery of dungeon crawlers, and the chaotic and competitive interactions of a party game,” said Srithongkham. Players compete with each other in mini games and use the points to collectively build a dungeon full of hazards and treasures. The goal is then to move across the dungeon while avoiding the opponents’ obstacles. During the ‘build’ phase of the game, players place objects around the dungeon grid, but they cannot see where the other players place their objects. All players start with the same amount of gold, and the winner is whoever has the most gold at the end of the game. “The goal of the game is to balance using gold to buy obstacles and structures, and saving gold to win the game,” according to team members.
Team Solarware came up with a game called “Heliocentric”, which the developers call a “space-themed 4X real-time strategy game.” The goal is to eliminate all other players, or to end up in control of the most celestial bodies (based on mass). Brandon Milton presented the game with his five teammates Dylan Pereira, Ethan Li, JJ Tran, Raj Kumar and Sylvia Li. Team members divided up development roles, e.g., to handle networking, graphics, the user interface, sound, or algorithms. In the final week of development, “I worked on fine-tuning some key gameplay aspects,” said CS senior Raj Kumar. “I fixed a bug in combat that would cause the server to go down when more than one unit was attacking the same target. Further I made sure that a unit’s client window, which details the unit’s stats, disappears when the unit dies.” According to presenter Milton, “real-time strategy games are very difficult to make, especially when each player may have 20 units or 30 units or 100 units at a time. You start to run into the problem of having the server process all of these at the same time. A new appreciation for this problem was definitely acquired, but not so much a solution to the problem.” Milton worked on user-interface elements, making movement smoother, and finalizing unit orientation, lasers and attack sounds: “I also played the role of jack-of-all-trades as much as I could.”
Outer space, with a dose of robots, was featured in another team’s game. Called “MURPH”, it’s a “four-player cooperative space adventure travel game.” The objective is to navigate to a specified destination, while overcoming obstacles by working together as the crew of the spaceship.. The ship is made up of various compartments — navigation room, medical ward, engine room, and so on. — that can be damaged or destroyed while travelling to the destination through asteroid showers and other events (such as black holes and enemy ships) that hinder progress. When an asteroid hits one of the compartments, walls begin to crack and the player can patch the fissures if it can be done without the ship sustaining further damage. As the damage worsens, the room is destroyed. The game is lost when all players die or the ship’s final compartment is destroyed. The game is won when the ship reaches the specified destination. Team members included Michael Carroll (who learned Blender from scratch to build all of game’s models), Yuxiang Guan, Amanda Luff, Guillermo Valdez, and Huajie Wu, as well as Anish Shandilya, who led the game demo. Noted prrofessor Voelker: “One thing I like about that game is that you’re running around putting out fires, so it’s a great allegory to software development” — a comment that triggered knowing laughter among the student developers in the audience.
- CSE Presence at Upcoming PLDI 2017 (2017)
The ACM SIGPLAN Conference on Programming Language Design and Implementation (PLDI 2017) will get underway on June 19 in Barcelona, Spain. It’s a premier forum for all areas of programming language research, including design, implementation, theory and efficient use of languages.
CSE/CNS Prof. Sorin Lerner has had a hand in putting the program together as a member of the External Program Committee for PLDI 2017.
CSE/CNS Prof. Ranjit Jhala, whose research focuses on techniques for building reliable computer systems, sits on the External Review Committee for the 2017 conference. He is also co-organizing a Tutorial track on “Refinement Types for Program Verification and Synthesis”, jointly with recent CSE/CNS alumna Niki Vazou (Ph.D. ’16), now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Maryland, and MIT postdoctoral researcher Nadia Polikarpova (who in March presented in the CSE Colloquium Lecture Series on Type-Driven Program Synthesis).In addition to the two faculty members, one CSE alumna sits on the Steering Committee for PLDI 2017: Chandra Krintz (M.S., Ph.D. ’98, ’01). Krintz earned her doctoral degree under advisor (and former CSE faculty member) Brad Calder. Following graduation, she joined the computer science faculty at UC Santa Barbara, where she is now a full professor. Her research interests include programming support and adaptive optimization for cloud computing applications and systems, as well as techniques for efficient interoperation and integration of web services.In her spare time, Krintz co-founded the company AppScale Systems, Inc., where she remains Chief Scientist in a part-time role. Recently her work has focused on the intersection of IoT, cloud computing and data analytics with applications in farming and ranching (SmartFarm) and health management (Vigilance).
- CSE Students and Professors Stage Major Presence at SIGMOD 2017 (2017)
CSE had a major presence at this year’s ACM Special Interest Group on Management of Data (SIGMOD), the premier venue for research in data management. The 2017 meeting took place in mid-May in Chicago jointly with PODS, the premier international conference on the theoretical aspects of database systems. CSE/CNS Database Lab faculty Yannis Papakonstantinou, Alin Deutsch, Arun Kumar and postdoctoral researcher Yannis Katsis all served on the SIGMOD research track program committee, and Kumar was a judge for the inaugural SIGMOD Student Research Competition. (He also chaired a Research Track session on Versions and Incremental Maintenance.)
However, it was the research that took center stage, with UC San Diego computer science faculty and students out in force with five major papers in the main conference. CSE/CNS professors Yannis Papakonstantinou and Steven Swanson and Ph.D. students Chunbin Lin and Jianguo Wang (who delivered the paper) presented their research on “An Experimental Study of Bitmap Compression vs. Inverted List Compression.”Papakonstantinou also had a joint paper with colleagues from Stanford University, Vasilis Verroios and Hector Garcia-Molina. They unveiled “Waldo: An Adaptive Human Interface for Crowd Entity Resolution.”
A newcomer to SIGMOD, CSE professor Kamalika Chaudhuri had two high-profile papers on the agenda. She and fellow CSE/CNS professor Arun Kumar were co-authors on a paper titled “Bolt-on Differential Privacy for Scalable Stochastic Gradient Descent-based Analytics.” Their co-authors were all former colleagues of Kumar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before he joined the CSE faculty this year. Professor Chaudhuri was also senior author on a paper presented by her Ph.D. student, Shuang Song. It was about “Pufferfish Privacy Mechanisms for Correlated Data”.“Kamalika Chaudhuri was one of two people who dominated the SIGMOD data privacy session this year, each of them with two papers in that session,” noted CSE‘s Kumar. “One of her papers, which I think was her first SIGMOD submission, got accepted without any revisions!” Kumar notes that he and Chaudhuri are planning to collaborate on new problems in the data, analytics and privacy space, especially on data cleaning and analytics systems. Database Lab members also invited Chaudhuri to become a member of the lab, and she accepted.
The final CSE-related paper in the main research track was co-authored by Ph.D. student Vineet Pandey, who works in the Design Lab with his advisor, CSE professor Scott Klemmer. The paper on “Concerto: A High Concurrency Key-Value Store with Integrity” recapped research done at Microsoft when Pandey spent a summer there, as did another UC San Diego student (now alumnus) Pingfan Meng (M.S., Ph.D. ’11, ’16), who is listed as a co-author on the paper, and who is now a research scientist at Intel Labs. Microsoft researchers listed as co-authors on the Concerto paper included Arvind Arasu, Ken Eguro, Raghav Kaushik, Donald Kossman and Ravi Ramamurthy, with Arvind delivering the presentation.
Tutorials and Workshops
With a big conference like SIGMOD, however, the main sessions are only part of the action. CSE‘s Arun Kumar co-presented a tutorial on systems, techniques and challenges in the space of data management and machine learning. “The tutorial attracted a packed audience with a mix of industry folks, professors and students,” recalled Kumar. “It was well-appreciated and stirred a lot of discussion.” (Slides and video from the tutorial are available on the SIGMOD tutorials page.)
Then there were the workshops co-located with SIGMOD 2017, and professor Kumar was heavily involved in three of them. He presented the invited academic keynote at the First Workshop on Data Management for End-to-End Machine Learning (DEEM). His talk focused on emerging research opportunities and challenges for the data management community in democratizing advanced analytics beyond just building faster/scalable ML algorithm implementations. It was well-attended and well-received by both researchers and practitioners. During the same DEEM Workshop, Kumar also had a joint paper with former colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Lingjiao Chen and Paraschos Koutris). The paper explored “Model-based Pricing: Do Not Pay for More than What You Learn!”Kumar and fellow CSE professor Lawrence Saul also co-authored a paper with graduate students Dharmil Chandarana and Vraj Shah. CSE M.S. student Shah presented the paper on “SpeakQL: Towards Speech-driven Multi-modal Querying” in the Workshop on Human-in-the-Loop Data Analytics (HILDA).CSE postdoc Yannis Katsis also presented a paper co-authored by professor Papakonstantinou and Ph.D. student Nikos Koulouris during the HILDA workshop. The topic: “Assisting Discovery in Public Health”, which they co-authored with Qualcomm Institute researcher and UC San Diego School of Medicine professor Kevin Patrick.
With SIGMOD 2017 now history, Database Lab members are looking ahead to the other major database conference of the year, the International Conference on Very Large Data Bases (VLDB 2017). It’s scheduled for August 28-September 1 in Munich, Germany. CSE‘s database researchers are promising another banner presence for the group at the meeting.
- Researchers Find Computer Code that Volkswagen Used to Cheat Emissions Tests (2017)
An international team of researchers has uncovered the mechanism that allowed Volkswagen to circumvent U.S. and European emission tests over at least six years before the Environmental Protection Agency put the company on notice in 2015 for violating the Clean Air Act. During a year-long investigation, researchers found code that allowed a car’s onboard computer to determine that the vehicle was undergoing an emissions test. The computer then activated the car’s emission-curbing systems, reducing the amount of pollutants emitted. Once the computer determined that the test was over, these systems were deactivated.
When the emissions curbing system wasn’t running, cars emitted up to 40 times the amount of nitrogen oxides allowed under EPA regulations.
The team, led by Kirill Levchenko, a computer scientist at the University of California San Diego presented their findings at the 38th IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy in the San Francisco Bay Area on May 22 to 24, 2017.
“We were able to find the smoking gun,” Levchenko said. “We found the system and how it was used.”
Computer scientists obtained copies of the code running on Volkswagen onboard computers from the company’s own maintenance website and from forums run by car enthusiasts. The code was running on a wide range of models, including the Jetta, Golf and Passat, as well as Audi’s A and Q series.
“We found evidence of the fraud right there in public view,” Levchenko said.
During emissions standards tests, cars are placed on a chassis equipped with a dynamometer, which measures the power output of the engine. The vehicle follows a precisely defined speed profile that tries to mimic real driving on an urban route with frequent stops. The conditions of the test are both standardized and public. This essentially makes it possible for manufacturers to intentionally alter the behavior of their vehicles during the test cycle. The code found in Volkswagen vehicles checks for a number of conditions associated with a driving test, such as distance, speed and even the position of the wheel. If the conditions are met, the code directs the onboard computer to activate emissions curbing mechanism when those conditions were met.
A year-long investigation
UC San Diego Kirill Levchenko Computer scientist Kirill Levchenko led the research effort at UC San Diego.
It all started when computer scientists at Ruhr University, working with independent researcher Felix Domke, teamed up with Levchenko and the research group of computer science professor Stefan Savage at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.
Savage, Levchenko and their team have extensive experience analyzing embedded systems, such as cars’ onboard computers, known as Engine Control Units, for vulnerabilities. The team examined 900 versions of the code and found that 400 of those included information to circumvent emissions tests.
A specific piece of code was labeled as the “acoustic condition”—ostensibly, a way to control the sound the engine makes. But in reality, the label became a euphemism for conditions occurring during an emissions test. The code allowed for as many as 10 different profiles for potential tests. When the computer determined the car was undergoing a test, it activated emissions-curbing systems, which reduced the amount of nitrogen oxide emitted.
“The Volkswagen defeat device is arguably the most complex in automotive history,” Levchenko said.
Researchers found a less sophisticated circumventing ploy for the Fiat 500X. That car’s onboard computer simply allows its emissions-curbing system to run for the first 26 minutes and 40 seconds after the engine starts— roughly the duration of many emissions tests.
Researchers note that for both Volkswagen and Fiat, the vehicles’ Engine Control Unit is manufactured by automotive component giant Robert Bosch. Car manufacturers then enable the code by entering specific parameters.
Diesel engines pose special challenges for automobile manufacturers because their combustion process produces more particulates and nitrogen oxides than gasoline engines. To curb emissions from these engines, the vehicle’s onboard computer must sometimes sacrifice performance or efficiency for compliance.
The study draws attention to the regulatory challenges of verifying software-controlled systems that may try to hide their behavior and calls for a new breed of techniques that work in an adversarial setting.
“Dynamometer testing is just not enough anymore,” Levchenko said.
Authors: Guo Li, Kirill Levchenko and Stefan Savage from UC San Diego; Moritz Contag, Andre Pawlowski and Thorsten Holz from Ruhr University; and independent researcher Felix Domke.
This work was supported by the European Research Council and by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).
- CSE Alumnus Leverages Machine Learning to Help Companies (and Hometown) Grow (2017)
UC San Diego computer science alumnus Matthew Der (Ph.D. ’15) was one of the few fresh graduates from the Computer Science and Engineering department who did not opt to work for a West Coast technology giant like Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook or Google (where he did two summer internships during graduate school). Instead, he returned home in September 2015 to the fast-growing RVA technology corridor (in Richmond, Virginia) to become a partner and Chief Technology Officer in Notch, a local tech consulting startup that was barely a year old.
“I love Richmond as a city and I am passionate about entrepreneurship and the technology community here,” said Der. “Part of Notch’s mission is to be a West Coast-caliber boutique tech consultancy in central Virginia. You don’t need to go to the Bay Area or NYC to find one.”
For the second year in a row, Notch was a finalist for the top Emerging Technology Business award given out by RichTech, an association of local technology businesses and tech professionals. Last year they came close, but at the 22nd annual Technology Awards show on May 10, Der and his colleagues were honored with the award for startups or small businesses demonstrating the ability to achieve commercial success.
Nearly 800 people attended the award ceremony at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.
Der credits his education in CSE for providing an important leg-up for success in any market. “It’s mostly the alignment of my expertise and the industry trend of artificial intelligence and machine learning,” explained Der. “Having a Ph.D. in machine learning is a big differentiator, especially in a mid-sized market. It immediately gave us street cred, sales material and conversation starters.”
As CTO, Der’s primary role is to oversee Notch’s data science and machine learning consulting. He is responsible for successful delivery of predictive solutions to Notch’s clients as well as internal training, and the company’s services are in strong demand from companies that need to use data more effectively to fuel business growth.
“In some sense we’re riding the AI wave with everyone else,” noted Der. “But we’ve found that while everyone is talking about the hype, many still don’t understand how their business can leverage AI to gain a competitive advantage.”
While in CSE Der focused on machine learning applications to security, and in particular, web page clustering and classification. He was involved in the AI, Systems and Networking as well as Security research groups under advisors Lawrence Saul, Geoff Voelker and Stefan Savage, and the Center for Networked Systems.
- Making Parsers More Accessible (2017)Ph.D. candidate Alan Leung (M.S. ’13) says he likes to create tools that “make it easier to build complex systems reliably.” These include a tool for automating the construction of parsers — programs that extract structure from strings — for context-free languages. Now, Leung is poised for the final defense of his dissertation on making parsers more accessible. He will defend his thesis in front of a panel chaired by his advisor in the Programming Languages group, CSE professor Sorin Lerner. The panel also includes CSE professors Ranjit Jhala and Ryan Kastner, as well as Math professor Samuel Buss and UCLA computer science professor Todd Millstein.
The title of Leung’s dissertation is “Constructing Parsers by Example via Interactive Program Synthesis,” and his defense is scheduled for Thursday, May 11 at 2PM in room 2217 of the CSE building. The examination is open to the public.Parsers are fundamental components of many software systems, including email clients, video games, spreadsheet programs, and relational databases. As a result, constructing parsers has become a ubiquitous programming task for developers in many domains, and not just for programming language experts.
According to Leung, existing tools for generating parsers assume a great deal of background knowledge in parsing and formal language theory, but “it is possible to make parsing more accessible by combining interactive visual feedback with the programming-by-example paradigm, wherein users synthesize programs simply by providing example inputs and outputs demonstrating the result of the intended computation.”In his dissertation, Leung presents novel algorithms for (a) constructing syntactic specifications by example, (b) constructing lexical analyses by example, and (c) visualizing progress toward parser completion. “We instantiate these algorithms in two graphical development environments we have implemented,” notes Leung in his abstract, referring to Parsify and its successor, Parsimony. “The latter’s central user interaction paradigm is that of programming-by example.” In a user study, he demonstrates that non-expert users show significantly better performance when using the new system.Prior to beginning the graduate program in CSE in 2010, Leung worked for five years at Intel designing cache systems on several generations of Itanium microprocessors. Before Intel, he did his undergraduate degree at Cornell University.
- Jacobs School, CSE Honor Recently Appointed Endowed Chair Holders (2017)
CSE and the Jacobs School of Engineering are celebrating two CSE professors who were awarded endowed chairs in the past year. The appointments of professors Tajana Rosing and Stefan Savage, both of whom are affiliated with the Center for Networked Systems (CNS), were previously announced, but now they will be honored at separate invitation-only receptions scheduled for May and June.
John J. and Susan M. Fratamico Endowed Chair
On Thursday, May 18 from 5:30-7:30PM, Jacobs School Dean Albert P. Pisano and CSE Chair Dean Tullsen will host a program and reception to celebrate CSE professor Tajana Rosing’s appointment to the John J. and Susan M. Fratamico Endowed Chair in the Jacobs School.
Rosing, who earned her Ph.D. from Stanford in 2001 while working at HP Labs, is the inaugural holder of the Fratamico chair, which was established in 2012. When the appointment was originally announced in September 2016, CSE’s Tullsen noted Rosing’s “creativity and approach to research [that] have had a deep impact on innovation in computer engineering.”
The computer engineering professor joined the CSE faculty in 2005. There, she established the System Energy Efficiency Lab (SEELab), which focuses on energy efficiency at many scales — from sensor nodes to data centers and from transport networks to power grids. Rosing’s research interests include embedded systems hardware and software design and the design of approximate and highly-efficient architectures. Currently Rosing works on efficient and distributed data collection, aggregation and processing in the context of Internet of Things applications, smart cities, wireless healthcare and the distributed Smart Grid for electricity.
Among her achievements, Rosing was able to optimize the design and operation of embedded systems to achieve 1,000 times more energy efficiency at the cost of a 10 percent inaccuracy (i.e., 10 percent error in computation). The real-world impact of her research has also stretched the battery life of smartphones and other electronic devices — and her work maximizes the quality of service in ‘smart’ servers while minimizing power consumption.
Irwin Mark and Joan Klein Jacobs Chair in Information and Computer Science
On Wednesday, June 7 from 5:30-7:30PM, Jacobs School Dean Pisano and CSE Chair Tullsen will host a reception to honor Savage, who holds the Irwin Mark and Joan Klein Jacobs Chair.in Information and Computer Science. The reception marks the first anniversary of Savage’s appointment to the chair in June 2016. The chair was newly empty following the retirement of CSE professor Ronald Graham, the previous holder of the Jacobs Chair.
The computer scientist – who co-directs CNS – joined the CSE faculty in 2000 in an acting capacity until he defended his dissertation at the University of Washington in 2002.
Much of Savage’s early research focused on operating systems. Already a Fellow of the ACM, he was honored again by ACM with its SIGOPS Mark Weiser Award in 2013. The award cited his “creativity and innovation in operating systems research.” The CSE professors other honors include the ACM-Infosys Foundation Award (2016) and a faculty research fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (2004).
Over time Savage expanded from operating systems and network security to cybersecurity, and he co-founded three research centers in the field: the Collaborative Center for Internet Epidemiology and Defense; the Center for Evidence-based Security Research; and the Center for Automotive Embedded Systems (to focus on security in the increasingly automated automotive sector).
Both programs and receptions will take place at the Calit2 Auditorium in Atkinson Hall. In addition to being CNS members, both Rosing and Savage are academic participants in Calit2’s Qualcomm Institute.
- CNS Researchers Help Google Fight Abusive Pins on Google Maps (2017)
A partnership between computer scientists in the Center for Networked Systems (CNS) at UC San Diego and Google has allowed the search giant to reduce by 70 percent fraudulent business listings in Google Maps. The researchers worked together to analyze more than 100,000 fraudulent listings to determine how scammers had been able to avoid detection-albeit for a limited amount of time-and how they made money.
The team presented their findings at the 26th International Conference on the World Wide Web in Australia earlier this month.
The computer scientists identified what they describe as a “new form of blackhat search engine optimization that targets local listing services” such as Google Maps. They also describe how these scammers were able to make money.
“Location-based search is increasingly becoming the way people interact with online content-even if you’re not using a mapping application,” said Alex C. Snoeren, a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at UC San Diego and a senior author of the study.
For example, when people run a search on their mobile phone, the search engine uses their physical location as one of the inputs to decide which results to display, Snoeren explained.
The scammers take advantage of this by using fake locations to make it look like their business is in close proximity to the user doing the search. This was particularly true of on-call contractors, notably plumbers and locksmiths. Researchers found that 40 percent of all fake listings on Google Maps belong to that category.
“I might find seven listings for locksmiths in my neighborhood,” said Danny Huang, the paper’s first author and a Ph.D. student in computer science at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego. “But in fact, none of those listings are real.”
In all, researchers found that 11 percent of overall search results for locksmiths were fraudulent. In New York, that percentage went up to 15.6 percent. And it went up to an astonishing 83.3 percent in West Harrison, New York.
Scammers are able to make money when they get called to help a user based on a fake listing. Scammers might quote a low price when called on the phone, only to charge a higher fee when they show up. They might not be licensed but get the business anyway.
In another scheme, scammers set up fake pins for real hotels or restaurants on Google Maps. They set up websites where customers make reservations, which are connected to the business’ real website or to a travel agency, which is not part of the scam. This allows scammers to make money either by getting a commission for each reservation or for referring traffic to the businesses’ real websites. The researchers found that roughly 13 percent of the fraudulent listings had real hotel and restaurant addresses, but were not created by these businesses.
All these fraud schemes were possible primarily because scammers found a way to get around Google’s verification process.
Businesses can register for Google Maps online for free. But before a listing goes live, Google sends a postcard with a verification code to the business’ address. The business inputs this verification code and the listing is then approved to go live.
Partly thanks to these measures, Google is able to detect 85 percent of fake listings before they even appear on Google Maps. The fake listings that make it past the verification process are taken down within an average of 8.6 days between creation and suspension.
Scammers got around verification requirements mainly by leasing PO boxes and using those addresses to receive their verification codes. They also added fake suite numbers to a specific address so Google wouldn’t get suspicious about a large number of businesses located at the same address. Researchers note that there are legitimate reasons for a large number of businesses to have the same address—big office buildings in Manhattan come to mind.
Researchers also noted that a large percent of fraudulent listings changed their address or the category they belonged to (from hotel to locksmith, for example) after verification.
To tamp down on abuse, Google has taken a number of measures, which the company details in a post on its research blog. Steps include: prohibiting bulk registration at most addresses; preventing businesses from changing their addresses to a location that is impossibly far from the original without additional verification; and detecting and ignoring intentionally mangled text in address fields designed to confuse Google’s algorithms. The company also fine-tuned its anti-spam machine learning systems to detect data discrepancies that are common in fake or deceptive listings.
The research was partially funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
*D.Y. Huang, D. Grundman, K. Thomas, A. Kumar, E. Bursztein, K. Levchenko and A.C. Snoeren, “Pinning Down Abuse on Google Maps,” Proc. of the International Conference on World Wide Web (WWW), April 3-7, 2017, Perth, Australia.
- Recent Computer Science Faculty Hire Joins Center for Networked Systems (2017)
Arun Kumar Works on Advanced Analytics at Intersection of Data Management and Machine Learning
On April 3, Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) assistant professor Arun Kumar began teaching his first undergraduate course since joining the UC San Diego faculty in 2016. CSE 190D covers topics in database system implementation, and it’s a hands-on, systems-focused course and the first at UC San Diego to teach the systems guts of a relational database management system (DBMS).
“Faculty in our Database group hope that this course will eventually be mainstreamed as 132C,” said Kumar. “It would complete a solid triad of database courses for undergraduates covering principles, applications and, finally, implementation.”
Kumar joined CSE after completing his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison last summer, with a focus on datamanagement and analytics. His research explores the intersection of data management and machine learning (ML), an area increasingly called advanced analytics. He also aims to create a pipeline of students coming into this burgeoning field – and the subject of the first graduate course he taught, CSE 291, during the winter quarter. “Advanced analytics is a brand-new field and companies require a lot of talent in this space,” he observed. “The dearth of engineers who understand machine learning is staggering, and a lot of companies are offering large salaries for people who understand software engineering, data systems and machine learning under the now-famous job title — data scientist.”
Advanced analytics is also the subject of a presentation Kumar will give for the Center for Networked Systems (CNS) on Tuesday, April 11 at 1pm in room 4140 of the CSE Building. His talk, “Democratizing Distributed Advanced Analytics,” will explore large-scale data analytics using statistical machine learning and how they are becoming increasingly critical for many data-driven applications.
“The data management, machine learning and systems communities are working on scalable and fast implementations of ML algorithms,” said Kumar. “However, several orthogonal bottlenecks in the end-to-end process of building and deploying ML models for data analytics have largely been ignored, leading to wasted resources and poor productivity of data scientists.”
CNS’s newest member will introduce three new projects to his audience and he hopes to solicit critical feedback. Kumar also foresees more collaborations with CNS and other CSE faculty. With CSE Prof. Kamalika Chaudhuri, he is already collaborating on the issue of differential privacy for machine learning. He is also working with two other CNS members: CSE Prof. Tajana Rosing, on understanding the tradeoffs facing machine-learning algorithms in the Internet of Things; and CSE Prof. Ranjit Jhala, on applying program analysis to bring new data-driven optimizations to advanced analytics codebases. As for other collaborators in CSE, Kumar is collaborating with CSE Prof. Lawrence Saul and fellow new hire, CSE Prof. Ndapa Nakashole, on using speech recognition to improve database usability.
“A couple of my upcoming projects will involve working on top of popular, distributed machine learning and data-processing systems such as Spark and TensorFlow to exploit the massive parallelism they offer for new abstractions that I create,” said Kumar. “I suspect this will eventually get me digging into the internals of these networked systems and perhaps optimizing them for the workloads that I care about. This could involve publishing with CNS co-authors, so becoming a member of the center seemed a no-brainer.”
Kumar wants to make it easier and faster to build and use ML algorithms to analyze large and complex datasets. “My work over the next few years is going to focus on building tools, software and abstractions to make it easier to use machine learning in practice,” he predicted. “I want to do so from the perspective of the data scientist’s productivity, the runtime performance and research efficiency, as well as other issues such as privacy.”
Kumar notes that systems and ideas based on his dissertation and research at UW-Madison have been released as part of the MADlib open-source library, used internally by Facebook, LogicBlox and Microsoft, and shipped in products from EMC, IBM, Oracle and Cloudera. “It’s been nice to work with industry about the practical applications of my work,” he noted. ““The practical relevance of my work can impact what people do today and from them I can learn what the challenges tomorrow will be, and how we as computer-science researchers can stay one step ahead by anticipating what comes next.”
Kumar’s dissertation focused on training machine learning models based on data sets from multiple tables. “Data scientists usually combine all these tables into a massive single table,” he said. “These operations are called relational joins, and specifically key-foreign-key joins. Now the single table contains all the attributes of all the tables. This was the state of the art before I looked at this problem.”
Yet as Kumar confirmed, joining multiple tables together introduces redundancy into the data. “Consider a popular application of machine learning in enterprise domains: predicting customer churn,” he suggested. “You have a customers table joined with, say, a table about employers and another table about areas indexed by zip code. You could have a thousand customers employed by the same company, which means the record with the employer’s attributes (called its feature vector), gets repeated a thousand times after the join. The same could happen with the zip codes.” Result: the output of this join could be several times bigger than the input data. In one case at Microsoft, Kumar recalls, once they joined all their input tables for a Web security-related ML task to make one massive table, it blew up by a factor of ten. “A task that should have taken half an hour ended up taking a whole day on the cluster because the team overshot the storage space allotted to them — bringing down the shared cluster,” observed Kumar. “So storage becomes a major issue, as does the extra time wasted by the redundant computations performed by an ML algorithm over the redundant data.”
Kumar’s dissertation came up with two orthogonal new techniques. The first technique, called ‘avoiding the join physically,’ pushes down the machine learning computation to the input data in a multi-table format rather than having a single table with all the attributes. The challenge was to do so without affecting the accuracy of the ML model’s predictions. “That is a guarantee we provide and we have a proof for it,” confirmed Kumar. “Weff proved that the accuracy is unaffected. This mitigates the storage issue, because you don’t need the single table, and it mitigates the maintenance issue because you operate on the data as-is, and it mitigates the performance issue because you save a lot of runtime when you operate on the smaller input of the joins.”
One additional benefit of Kumar’s new paradigm: “Today many of the computations for machine learning happen in the cloud,” he said. “You purchase storage or computation runtime, and by reducing both, users can save a lot of money as well.”
The second part of his thesis focused on omitting unnecessary tables. “We showed that in many settings, for many ML models, some tables can be completely ignored,” explained Kumar. “We call it ‘avoiding the join logically’ because we are pretending that a table doesn’t even exist. If you omit a table, your runtime goes down, your storage goes down, and the data scientist’s productivity can go up because you have fewer tables and fewer attributes to manage.”
Kumar showed that prediction accuracy without the omitted table not only does not go down, but the runtime accelerates by two orders of magnitude – i.e., making the computation up to 100 times faster.
Among his many honors, Kumar received a 2016 Google Faculty Research Award, and the same year took home a graduate student research award from the University of Wisconsin for his dissertation research. He was also a recipient of the Best Paper award at SIGMOD 2014.
Kumar recognizes that he joined UC San Diego at an important turning point for anyone working in the general field of data science. CSE is about to launch its first major and minor in Data Science and Engineering, and the campus is developing a Data Science Institute thanks to a $75 million gift from CSE lecturer and alumnus Taner Halicioglu, announced last week. “I am excited that UC San Diego is taking data science seriously,” mused Kumar. “Democratizing data science is a grand challenge that transcends disciplines and requires bridging the gaps between the fields of data management, systems, machine learning, statistics, math, human-computer interaction, and several other fields, including myriad application domains. The generous gift from our alumnus is truly spectacular and I hope it will help accelerate UC San Diego’s research and education in this important area.”
Meantime, Kumar will focus on his teaching and research, and recruiting graduate students for his lab. Two M.S. students from his Winter 2017 course on advanced analytics are now working as research assistants in his group. “I had set a tough filter for enrollment: reviewing a research paper and answering some open-ended research questions,” he said. “This seems to have scared away many students but it ensured a high-quality atmosphere in class. Some of the students even managed to submit research papers on their course projects, one to KDD and another to a SIGMOD workshop, which has already been accepted, while two more are working on solidifying their work for submission to VLDB/SIGMOD. These are all top venues in this research area.”
In addition to teaching the undergraduate course on implementing relational database management systems, this Spring Kumar is also organizing a CSE 290 seminar for grad students on Advanced Data Science. For the seminar, students will read and present papers and articles on advanced data science applications and tools.
Arun Kumar Website
Computer Science and Engineering, University of California San Diego
CSE 190 Topics in Database System Implementation
CSE 290 Seminar on Advanced Data Science
CSE 291 Topics in Advanced Analytics
- Computer Scientists Honored for ‘Tracing’ Research That Stood 10-Year Test of Time (2017)
Faculty from UC San Diego, Brown University, and UC Berkeley Share in Networked Systems Award
At the USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI) this week in Boston, Mass., a team of researchers accepted an award for the most influential paper among those presented a decade ago at the annual conference. The 2017 NSDI Test of Time Award was presented during a luncheon on March 26 to two former graduate students at UC Berkeley who co-authored the paper published at NSDI 2007, along with their three UC Berkeley advisors.
Rodrigo Fonseca and George Porter are now professors of computer science, respectively, at Brown University and theUniversity of California San Diego. They accepted the award for their paper*, “X-Trace: A Pervasive Network Tracing Framework,” along with one of their former advisors, professor Ion Stoica. (Other co-authors on the paper – UC Berkeley professors Randy H. Katz and Scott Shenker – did not attend the award ceremony.)
Porter and Fonseca were still at UC Berkeley when they worked on the original paper. “We wrote X-Trace while we were Ph.D. students,” recalled Porter. “It was really an honor to work with my colleagues on this project, which formed the basis of Rodrigo’s and my Ph.D. dissertations.” Stoica remains a professor of computer science in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department of UC Berkeley. (It’s not Stoica’s first Test of Time award: he received the SIGCOMM Test of Time Award in 2011.)
Modern Internet systems often combine different applications, span different administrative domains, and function in the context of network mechanisms (tunnels, VPNs, overlays and so on). In their 2007 paper, the co-authors argued that “diagnosing these complex systems is a daunting challenge.” “Many diagnostic tools existed at the time, but none existed for reconstructing a comprehensive view of service behavior,” said Brown’s Fonseca.
X-Trace was not the first tracing framework, but it was influential given that it was effectively the first framework for end-to-end tracing to focus on generality and pervasiveness. “It was based on the observation that an increasing number of systems would be built from heterogeneous components, built and operated by different people,” explained Fonseca. “In contrast, existing tracing frameworks required a specific language, or were targeted to a particular system.”
The researchers implemented X-Trace in protocols and software systems, and in their prize-winning paper, they set out to explain three different use scenarios: domain name system (DNS) resolution; a three-tiered photo-hosting website; and a service accessed through an overlay network.
Hari Balakrishnan, who co-chaired NSDI in 2007, broke the news of the Test of Time Award to the recipients. “We’re very pleased to share that your X-Trace paper from NSDI 2007 has been selected for an NSDI Test of Time Award,” he wrote. “The award honors a paper published ten years earlier at NSDI with retrospectively the most impact on research or practice.”
Indeed, the X-Trace paper has proved to be prescient – in both research and practice. “Today many Internet-scale backend systems are built using a ‘microservices’ approach, with hundreds of loosely connected components tied together to offer larger services,” noted Porter. “Debugging these systems effectively requires what X-Trace provided: the ability to correlate events in one component to events in other arbitrary components, even if they were many steps far removed from the first.”
The rapid adoption of tracing began with Google’s introduction of Dapper in 2010 (see graphic), which offered a similar primitive to X-Trace. Twitter’s Zipkin and Cloudera’s HTrace were open-source implementations of Dapper. Another current competitor in the market, called Traceview, also has X-Trace in its DNA after a series of startups and acquisitions dating back to 2010.
“By 2015 many companies such as Netflix, Baidu, Uber, Facebook and Etsy were deploying internal trace solutions very similar to our ideas presented in the X-Trace paper,” observed Fonseca. “And the interest persists in a rather recent initiative called OpenTracing, which is trying to standardize end-to-end tracing.”
The NSDI award is not Fonseca’s first for his work on tracing: he co-authored a paper on ‘pivot tracing’ that received a Best Paper award at the 2015 Symposium on Operating Systems Principles. That same year, Fonseca won an NSF CAREER Award for his work on ‘causal tracing’ to elucidate understanding of the performance of distributed systems. (Causal tracing covers a wide variety of tracing systems and frameworks, including X-Trace itself, as well as Dapper, Zipkin, HTrace, and many others.)
“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to understand how a system behaves, and, especially, how and why it fails,” said Fonseca. “Causal tracing is a technique that captures the causality of events across all components, layers and machines, and it eases the task of understanding complex distributed systems.”
Now a co-director of UC San Diego’s Center for Networked Systems (CNS), George Porter’s research encompasses the fields of computer networking, data-intensive computing and computer systems, with a specific focus on data center networking. “I work to reduce the barrier to developing, deploying and managing applications that are able to process massive amounts of data,” said Porter. “At the same time, we aim to ensure that the resulting systems are practical, low-cost and energy efficient.”
Porter also received an NSF CAREER Award (in 2016) for work on a scalable multiplane data center network. He plans to demonstrate a hybrid electrical-optical network topology that will scale to hundreds of thousands of servers – at link rates reaching 1.6 terabits per second.
Meanwhile, the excitement surrounding tracing continues unabated. In 2017, for example, Amazon has released X-Ray, which offers distributed tracing for Amazon Web Services, and another company, Datadog, also released an end-to-end tracing product earlier this year.
*Rodrigo Fonseca, George Porter, Randy H. Katz, Scott Shenker, Ion Stoica, “X-Trace: A Pervasive Network Tracing Framework , Proc. 4thUSENIX Conference on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI), April 2007, Cambridge, MA.
- CNS Espresso Prize for Excellence in Networking 2017 Awardee (2017)
Every academic year, the Computer Science and Engineering department offers the class CSE 123, Computer Networks. In this class, students are introduced to concepts, principles, and practice of computer communication networks with examples from existing architectures, protocols, and standards. Students are expected to complete a final project showing how they use the concepts they have learned to resolve a problem posed by the instructor.
Dr. George Varghese, a former CSE professor, taught CSE 123 for almost a decade and always enjoyed seeing the many ways that students implemented their final projects. When Dr. Varghese departed from UC San Diego in 2013, he left behind a gift to fund an annual prize to be awarded to the students who produce the best final projects in CSE 123.
The CNS Espresso Prize for Excellence in Networking is awarded by the current professor for CSE 123, Alex C. Snoeren, based upon criteria set by him for the given final project assigned each year. Professor Snoeren awarded the prize this year to UCSD undergraduate student Yihan Zhang for his outstanding final project.
Previous Recipients of the CNS Espresso Prize for Excellence in Networking:
2016 Undergraduate recipient: Conner Johnston
2014 Undergraduate recipient: Aaron Yip Ming Wong
2014 Visiting Undergraduate recipient: Matheus Venturyne Xavier Ferreira
2013 Undergraduate recipient: Jacob Maskiewicz
2013 Graduate recipient: Vidya Kirupanidhi
- CNS Newsletter – 2017 Spring (2017)
Center for Networked Systems at UC San Diego
Spring 2017 Newsletter
(Above) CNS Fall 2016 Research Review took place Oct. 13-14 (see story below). The next is set for Oct. 19-20, 2017. Want to attend? Contact Jennifer Folkestad, email@example.com or 858-534-5948.
Innovating in Networked Systems
Researchers affiliated with CNS will present at the 14th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI 2017), which takes place March 27-29 in Boston. Ph.D. student Arjun Roy (pictured at CNS Research Review) co-authored one of the papers with professor Alex Snoeren.
Read More Battery Control to Cut Utility Costs
CNS postdoc Alper Sinan Akyurek (pictured) and CSE Prof. Tajana Rosing develop control algorithm to cut utility cost of actual building by 50 percent compared to batteryless power solution.
Top Women in Networking and Communications
CNS faculty member KC Claffy, founding director of SDSC’s Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA), made the list of 10 top women in networking and communications, compiled by N2 Women. The community of researchers cited Claffy’s “seminal work on measurement, analysis, visualization and sharing of Internet data.”
Read More NAE Elects Former CNS Member
Former CSE Prof. George Varghese (pictured at a CNS research review in 2008) was on the UC San Diego faculty from 2000 to 2012. Now at UCLA, Varghese was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for his work on “network algorithmics that make the Internet faster, more secure and more reliable.”
New Faculty Join CNS
CNS now counts 22 faculty members following the addition of CSE assistant professors Deian Stefan and Aaron Schulman to their ranks. Both work in the systems area.
The Graduate Behind Pokémon GO
Last October, CNS organized a lecture on campus by CSE alumnus Edward Wu (B.S. ’04), senior product manager at Niantic, the Google spinoff behind the mobile phone-based game craze, Pokémon GO. His former professor, Geoffrey Voelker, invited Wu to speak at CNS’s Fall 2016 Research Review. Wu got his first taste for programming computer games in Voelker’s CSE 125 course. Watch Wu’s talk, or read about it (click on Read More).
Read More Alum Wins Dahl-Nygaard
CSE alumnus Ross Tate (Ph.D. ‘12), who did his doctorate under CNS and CSE Prof. Sorin Lerner, is one of two winners of the Dahl-Nygaard Prizes for 2017. Now a professor of computer science at Cornell University, Tate was cited for his “fundamental contributions to type systems with applications to object-oriented languages.”
Photo Finish to Fall Research Review
Last October, CNS held its Fall 2016 Research Review. To see photos of the two-day meeting, visit the CNS image gallery or click on Read More to download images from our Flickr photostream.
Student Attends Grace Hopper on CNS Award
Second-year CSE M.S. student Mansi Malik received a CNS award to attend the 2016 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing last October. She was one of 35 UC San Diego students at the meeting in Houston, TX. “It was an honor to represent both CNS and Graduate Women in Computing,” said Malik.
Read More Scholar Meets the ‘Other’ Turing
The first student recipient of CNS’s Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship, Valeria Gonzalez (pictured at left), attended a talk by Sir Dermot Turing, the geneticist-turned-lawyer and nephew of computer science pioneer Alan Turing. Together with CNS administrator Jennifer Folkestad and former CNS staffer Kathy Krane, Gonzalez met with Sir Dermot after his talk.
Best Paper on Operating Systems
CNS researchers including CSE Prof. Yuanyuan Zhou and first author Ph.D. student Tianyin Xu received the Best Paper award at the 12th USENIX Symposium on Operating Systems Design and Implementation (OSDI 2016) in November. Their winning paper, “Early Detection of Configuration Errors to Reduce Failure Damage”, presented PCHECK, a tool to analyze source code and automatically generate configuration checking code (called ‘checkers’).
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- Using Batteries to Cut Utility Costs (2017)
CNS postdoctoral researcher Alper Sinan Akyurek developed an algorithm for controlling batteries that can decrease the utility cost of an actual building by up to 50 percent compared to a building powered without the use of batteries.
Akyurek (Ph.D. ’17) – who completed his doctorate in January – still works in the Systems Energy Efficiency Laboratory of CSE Prof. Tajana Rosing (who has an adjunct appointment in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Akyurek’s previous department). Together they published their findings in a paper on “Optimal Distributed Nonlinear Battery Control” in the December 2016 issue of the IEEE Journal of Emerging and Selected Topics in Power Electronics*.
As the researchers noted in their article, energy storage systems enable on-demand dispatch of energy to compensate for volatility in the generation and consumption — supply and demand — for power. “Our optimal distributed battery control handles multiple batteries with low computational complexity,” they noted.
Compared to previous work, they used a higher-accuracy nonlinear battery model with only two percent error. “We show in a case study that optimal algorithms designed for a linear battery model induce an error of up to 60 percent in terms of cost reduction… [while] for the case of a constant load profile, we show that this error exceeds 150 percent,” said Akyurek.
Comparing the latest algorithm to the state-of-the-art load-following battery management technique, the new algorithm produced a 30 percent improvement in utility cost. Furthermore, the algorithm obtains the solution for multiple batteries in a decentralized way with guaranteed convergence.
Funding for the control research came from TerraSwarm, one of six centers of the Semiconductor Research Corporation’s STARnet program funded by the Defense Applied Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Microelectronics Advanced Research Corp. (MARCO) and DARPA-E (for Energy). SRC is backed by companies including Intel, IBM, Micron and Texas Instruments. Professor Rosing co-led TerraSwarm’s Smart Cities effort, on which Akyurek worked for three years until it ended in October 2015.
Akyurek’s primary research related to CNS involves context-aware optimization in Internet of Things (IoT) systems. His research extends to optimized control in the Smart Grid for energy efficiency, and he has developed a range of control algorithms for purposes ranging from communication and prediction to controlling energy storage.
Prior to his Ph.D. at UC San Diego, the postdoctoral researcher completed his B.Sc. (’08) and M.Sc. (’11) at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey, where he was a member of its Communication Networks Research Group. Akyurek also worked as a senior design engineer on wireless networks for the Turkish company, Aselsan, Inc., before enrolling at UC San Diego.
Looking to the future, Akyurek hopes to continue his current line of research. “We are working to extend our optimal nonlinear distributed control solution to other areas in the Smart Grid,” he noted. “We want to modify it for use in other Internet of Things ecosystems such as sensor networks, user-in-the-loop control systems, and managing the maintenance of devices.”
*A.S. Akyurek and T. Simunic Rosing, “Optimal Distributed Nonlinear Battery Control”, IEEE Journal of Emerging and Selected Topics in Power Electronics, December 2016.
- Center for Networked Systems Adds New Faculty Members (2017)
The Center for Networked Systems (CNS) at the University of California San Diego now has 22 faculty membersfollowing the addition of two new professors to its ranks. Both newcomers – Deian Stefan and Aaron Schulman – joined the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) faculty as assistant professors recently, with Stefan starting to teach last fall, and Schulman this winter.
“Professors Schulman and Stefan both work in the systems area, but their research interests also go well beyond networked systems,” said CNS co-director George Porter. “Both share an interest in secure systems. Schulman’s interests extend to embedded systems and even operating systems, and Stefan’s other major research focus is on programming languages. Both have a lot to bring to CNS’s research agenda.”
While still doing a postdoc at Stanford, Aaron Schulman founded a company called Mellow Research, LLC, to build BattOr, a power monitor he invented to track how much energy different features of applications use while running on mobile phones. For his part, Deian Stefan delayed his start at UC San Diego by a year to finish launching a web security startup called Intrinsic (formerly GitStar), in which he continues to hold the part-time job of Chief Scientist. “At Intrinsic we’ve been transferring research into practice by building systems, tools and languages that ultimately make it easier for developers to build and deploy Node.js web applications with minimal trust,” said Stefan.
Both Stefan and Aaron Schulman came to UC San Diego from Stanford University. Stefan earned his Ph.D. in Computer Science in 2015, while Schulman was a postdoctoral researcher from 2013 to 2016 in the lab of Stanford professor Sachin Katti. Schulman earned his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, College Park, in 2013 (with a thesis on the reliability of Internet last-mile links that later won him the SIGCOMM Doctoral Dissertation Award).
According to Stefan, his primary research interest is in “building principled and practical secure systems.” He builds browsers and language runtime systems by applying programming language techniques and analysis. Among the secure systems Stefan has also helped to build: a secure package manager; a browser confinement system designed for modern web applications; a security-centric framework for building web platforms; a dynamic information flow control system; and a programming language for writing secure, constant-time code.
The professor serves as editor of the COWL specification, and he participates more broadly in developing specs as a member of the W3C WebAppSec and Node.js Security working groups. “By working on specifications,” said Stefan, “we’re trying to broadly influence browser and runtime systems that will ultimately make the web a safer place.”
Schulman started on July 1, 2016, but delayed making the move from Palo Alto until late in the year. As of this winter, he is teaching his first course at UC San Diego — a graduate-level course on topics in mobile computing and communication (CSE 291).
In his syllabus for the course, Schulman notes that students are learning about the challenges facing smartphones, wearables and smart devices that have overtaken PCs as the dominant platform for computing and communication. “Mobile devices have severely constrained energy capacity, their network connectivity is exclusively provided by unreliable, bandwidth-constrained wireless links, and they carry a standard set of sensors that are seemingly insufficient for certain applications and also can inadvertently leak private information about their users,” explained Schulman. “We discuss research that addresses the challenges introduced by the mobile platform by blurring the lines between traditional research areas in computer science.”
In past work, Schulman has improved the efficiency of wireless networks, cellular network flexibility, and the energy efficiency of mobile applications. He also quantified residential Internet network reliability, made progress in securing the web’s public key infrastructure, and identified privacy leaks in mobile devices.
- Former CSE/CNS Professor Elected to National Academy of Engineering (2017)
Former UC San Diego computer science and engineering and Center for Networked Systems professor George Varghese has been elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering. He is among the 84 new U.S. members (and 22 foreign members) elected to the organization in 2017. Varghese was cited for his contributions to “network algorithmics that make the Internet faster, more secure, and more reliable.”
Varghese — who was on the UC San Diego faculty from 2000 to 2012 — is currently a Chancellor’s Professor in the Department of Computer Science at UCLA. He returned to the University of California in August 2016, roughly four years after stepping down from his full professorship at UC San Diego to work for Microsoft Research in Silicon Valley.
More than a decade ago, while still at UC San Diego, Varghese took a leave of absence in 2004 to co-found NetSift, Inc., with his Ph.D. student Sumeet Singh (Varghese as president, Singh as NetSift’s chief scientist). The company developed automated techniques for learning and detecting attack signatures. Barely one year later, NetSift was acquired by Cisco Systems in 2005, and Varghese extended his faculty leave to help Cisco transition the NetSift technology to a 20-Gigabit-per-second chip called Hawkeye. (Singh went on to work for Cisco for seven years.) CNS co-director Stefan Savage co-authored some of the early work on the NetSift technology, as did Varghese’s Ph.D. student Cristian Estan, who is now at Google.
Among Varghese’s honors, he received the Koji Kobayashi Award for Computers and Communications in 2014 for his work in network algorithmics and its applications to high-speed packet networks. The same year, he received the SIGCOMM Lifetime Award for “sustained and diverse contributions to network algorithmics, with far-reaching impact in both research and industry.”
Varghese completed his Ph.D. at MIT in 1993, after doing his Master’s degree at North Carolina State. He did his undergraduate work at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, which awarded Varghese its Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2015. In 2002 he was elected a Fellow of the ACM.
- CNS Invites Applications for Second Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship; Feb. 6 Deadline (2017)
The Center for Networked Systems (CNS) in UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering is once again looking for an undergraduate student who is interested in networked systems – and also active in supporting the LGBT community. “Our goal is to use this scholarship to further boost diversity and inclusiveness in the field of systems and networking and give undergraduates an opportunity to work on top-notch research projects before they get to grad school,” said CNS co-director George Porter, a professor in the Computer Science and Engineering department.
CNS has invited undergraduates to apply for its Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship for the 2017-2018 academic year. The scholarship will be awarded this spring to a student majoring in a field that touches on networked systems, including computer science, computer engineering, public policy, communication or related programs.
According to Porter, CNS will give preference to “students with demonstrated academic merit, financial need and experience or interest in research.”
All applications must be submitted through the online application at https://ucsd.academicworks.com/ . Anyone with questions about the application process can get more information through the UC San Diego Scholarship Office by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org . The application deadline is no later than Monday, February 6, 2017.
In addition to the $10,000 scholarship, the recipient will have the opportunity to carry out guided research under the direction of one of CNS’s faculty mentors.
The scholarship pays homage to Alan Turing, the British mathematician and founder of the computer science field whose code-breaking work contributed substantially to the Allied victory in World War II (notably by breaking Germany’s Enigma code). Turing’s brilliant career was tragically cut short after the war, when he suffered outright persecution for his activities as a gay man. He died by suicide in 1954.
CNS is also making it easier for alumni, staff and other potential donors to give to the Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship fund with an outright gift or a payment pledge. Donations can be made online through the UC San Diego Online Giving portal. To give to the scholarship program, make your gift online at https://giveto.ucsd.edu/make-a-gift?id=a6a587f2-5000-4ca5-b643-ca84554e61bd&ct=t .
The first recipient of the $10,000 scholarship, Valeria Gonzalez, received the award last spring for the 2016-2017 academic year. “It’s great to see the CNS is taking the initiative to highlight the importance of bringing diversity to computer science and engineering beyond ethnicity and the gender binary,” said Gonzalez on receiving the inaugural award. “The LGBT community encompasses people with an array of talents and abilities, people such as Alan Turing himself… and knowing that your LGBT identity is acknowledged and accepted not only lets you direct all your focus into working hard but also allows you to connect more with the community you’re part of.” A transfer student from Cypress College, a community college near Los Angeles, Gonzalez has been an undergraduate student researcher in the Integrated Electronics and Biointerfaces Laboratory of Electrical and Computer Engineering professor Shadi Dayeh. She has also been a leader in the UC San Diego Women’s Center, which promotes an inclusive and equitable campus community through the educational, professional and personal development of diverse groups of women.
- CNS at NSDI 2017: Innovating in Networked Systems (2017)
Researchers affiliated with the Center for Networked Systems (CNS) at the University of California San Diego have been selected to present some of their most up-to-date research at the 14th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI 2017).
NSDI focuses on the design principles, implementation and practical evaluation of networked and distributed systems. The annual conference will take place March 27-29, 2017, in Boston, MA, and four papers with co-authors from CNS and the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department of the Jacobs School of Engineering have been accepted for submission to the prestigious meeting.
CNS co-director George Porter co-authored two of the papers. “NSDI is one of the most important conferences for us, because just like CNS, the symposium brings together researchers from across the networking and systems community,” said Porter. “Our papers accepted to the 2017 symposium are in line with NSDI’s stated goal of pushing architectural boundaries of network services, and promoting the research dialogue on networked systems.”
CSE Ph.D. student Michael Wei and CSE professor Steven Swanson have co-authored with VMware Research (where Wei is currently a researcher) and Princeton University a paper on “vCorfu: Large-Scale Data Stores over a Shared Log.”
vCorfu is a strongly consistent, cloud- scale object store built over a shared log. It augments the traditional replication scheme of a shared log to provide fast reads, and vCorfu leverages a new technique – composable state machine replication – to compose large state machines from smaller ones. “This enables the use of state machine replication to be used efficiently in huge data stores,” said Wei. “We will show that vCorfu outperforms Cassandra, the popular, state-of-the-art NoSQL database for cloud apps It does so while also providing strong consistency in opacity and read-own-writes, efficient transactions, and global snapshots at the scale of the cloud.”
vCorfu is available as an open-source project on Github at github.com/CorfuDB.
Datacenter Fault Detection
CSE Ph.D. student Arjun Roy expects to complete his doctorate in 2017, and he collaborated with his advisor, CSE professor Alex C. Snoeren, on the paper to be presented at NSDI on “Passive Realtime Datacenter Fault Detection.” It reflects joint work with Facebook researchers Hongyi Zeng and Jasmeet Bagga, who are also co-authors on the paper. (The two Facebook engineers previously co-authored a paper at SIGCOMM 2015 with Roy and professors Snoeren and Porter on “Inside the Social Network’s (Datacenter) Network”.) Roy also did internships at Facebook in the summers of 2012, 2013 and 2014.
According to the paper’s abstract, “datacenters are characterized by their large scale, stringent reliability requirements, and significant application diversity. However, the realities of employing hardware with small but non-zero failure rates mean that datacenters are subject to significant numbers of failures, subsets of packets can be dropped or delayed without triggering a fault signal, so traditional fault detection techniques (involving end-host or router-based statistics) may not identify such errors.
In their paper, Roy and Snoeren describe how to expedite the process of detecting and localizing partial datacenter faults. It uses an end-host method generalizable to most datacenter applications. “We correlate transport-layer flow metrics and the delay incurred by network-input/output system calls at end hosts with the path that traffic takes through the datacenter,” said Roy. “Then we apply statistical analysis techniques to identify outliers and localize the faulty link and/or switch or switches.
The paper will detail how the researchers evaluated their novel approach in a production datacenter (Facebook’s) carrying a workload servicing more than 100 million users.
In light of the massive explosion in video content on the Internet and for virtual reality, a team of two CSE Master’s students advised by professor George Porter has come up with a new approach to processing video with minimal delays. Second-year M.S. student Karthikeyan Vasuki Balasubramaniam (who is Porter’s teaching assistant this quarter in CSE 124 on Networked Services) and recent graduate Rahul Bhalerao (M.S. ’16) have had experience in industry (both at Amazon — Balasubramaniam as an intern at Amazon Prime, and Bhalerao currently working at Amazon Web Services).
The paper accepted to NSDI is entitled “Encoding, Fast and Slow: Low-Latency Video Processing Using Thousands of Tiny Threads.” In it, the researchers describe ExCamera, a system that can edit, transform and encode a video, including ultra-high-resolution 4K video (four times the resolution of high-definition TV) and stereoscopic virtual reality (VR) material, dozens of times faster than cutting-edge production systems at the largest providers.
The co-authors lay claim to two major contributions. First, “our coauthors at Stanford developed a novel encoding strategy focusing on fine-grained parallelism, which is rather unique in the encoding space,” explained Balasubramaniam.
Separately, noted Bhalerao, “ExCamera orchestrates encoding and other video-processing pipelines across the Amazon Web Services Lambda service. The system invokes thousands of threads in parallel, each handling only a fraction of a second of the video.” The UC San Diego was done in collaboration with researchers at Stanford University.
MegaSwitch is a multi-fiber ring optical fabric that exploits space-division multiplexing across multiple fibers non-blocking communications that can be rearranged to 30-plus racks and 6,000-plus servers. CNS’s George Porter co-authored the paper on “Enabling Widespread Communications on Optical Fabric with MegaSwitch” with researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, SUNY Buffalo, Yale University as well as Omnisense Photonics and CoAdna Photonics. (No UC San Diego students worked on the paper.)
According to Porter, “we were seeking an optical interconnect that can enable unconstrained communications within a computing cluster of thousands of servers.” Indeed, existing wired optical interconnects are not ideal for widespread communications in production clusters, and recent efforts to reduce the time it takes to reconfigure the optical circuit from milliseconds to microseconds only partially mitigated the problem (by rapidly time-sharing optical circuits across more nodes).
“We were still limited by the total number of parallel circuits available simultaneously,” explained Porter. “However, we wanted to evaluate the potential of WDM to scale to a large number of endpoints.”
USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation http://www.usenix.org/conference/nsdi17
Computer Science and Engineering Department http://cse.ucsd.edu/about/news/uc-san-diego-center-nsdi-2017-innovating-networked-systems
- KC Claffy among “10 Women to Know in Networking/Communications” (2017)
CNS faculty member and principal investigator/founding director of the Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA) at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), KC Claffy, has been named to the second annual “10 Women in Networking/Communications That You Should Know” list.
Now in its second year, the list is compiled and coordinated by N2 Women (Networking/Networking Women), a discipline-specific community for researchers in the communications and networking research fields. The organization’s main goal is to foster connections among under-represented women in computer networking and related research fields. The full list of this year’s award recipients can be found here.
Nominations are solicited both from the N2Women community as well as through several mailing lists related to networking and communications. More than 150 people from around the world submitted nominations, resulting in over 140 distinct names of accomplished women in the field, according to the organization.
A committee of five N2 Women board members selected this year’s 10 honorees. “Many people from around the world submitted one or more nominations for this list, and it was very difficult to choose only 10 amazing women,” said Oana Iova, a postdoctoral researcher in the D3S research group with the Department of Information Engineering and Computer Science (DISI) at the University of Trento, Italy , and the awards co-chair who led the nomination and selection processes this year. “We focused on women who have had a major impact in networking and/or communications. We also wanted a list that reflected presented our diversity, and specifically the diversity in the area of networking/communications.”
“I am honored to join such a distinguished group on this year’s N2 Women’s list,” said Claffy, who founded CAIDA in 1997 as a collaboration among commercial, government and academic research sectors to promote greater cooperation in the engineering and maintenance of a robust, scalable global internet infrastructure. “I encourage other women working in networking and communications to attend or help organize an N2Women event at their next ACM, IEEE, or other relevant conference or workshop.”
Today, CAIDA’s research interests include internet cartography, or detailed analyses of the changing nature of the Internet’s topology, routing and traffic dynamics. CAIDA also investigates the implications of these changes on network science, architecture, infrastructure security and stability, and public policy.
Earlier this year CAIDA was awarded a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to demonstrate and illuminate structural and dynamic aspects of the Internet infrastructure relevant to cybersecurity vulnerabilities. These aspects include macroscopic stability and resiliency analyses, grey markets for IPv4 addressing resources, and on-demand router-level topology inference.
In 2015, Claffy received the IEEE Internet Award for her “seminal contributions to the field of Internet measurement, including security and network data analysis, and for distinguished leadership in and service to the Internet community by providing open-access data and tools,” according to a notice published by the institute .
- Application Deadline: February 6, 2017 for the Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship (2016)
In 2015, the Center for Networked Systems established the Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship the first of its kind in the nation, for enrolled UC San Diego undergraduate students majoring in computer science or computer engineering, public policy, communications and other programs touching on networked systems and who are active in supporting the LGBT community. In addition to receiving a $10,000 scholarship, recipients are also provided with an opportunity to carry out guided research under the direction of one of the center’s faculty mentors.
CNS aspires to affirm the importance of a diverse and inclusive community of engineers and to pay homage to Alan Turing, a titan in the field, whose contributions were tragically cut short. A founder of the field of computer science and a brilliant mathematician, Alan Turing’s work contributed substantially to the Allied victory in World War II through his brilliant codebreaking. After the war, Turing suffered outright persecution for his activities as a gay man. He died by suicide in 1954.
The Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship will be awarded in the spring quarter 2017 for the 2017-2018 academic year to an undergraduate student who is either majoring in computer science, electrical and computer engineering, public policy, communications or other programs touching on networked systems and who is active in supporting the LGBT community. Preference given to students with demonstrated academic merit, financial need, and experience or interest in research.
Deadline: February 6, 2017 Online Application: https://ucsd.academicworks.com/ If you have questions regarding the application process, please contact the UCSD Scholarship Office at email@example.com
- CNS Scholarship Winner Gets First-Hand Insight into Computer Science Pioneer Alan Turing (2016)
Valeria Gonzalez is the first recipient of the Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship launched by UC San Diego’s Center for Networked Systems (CNS), so she was excited when she learned that the nephew of the famous mathematician and pioneer in the fields of computer science and artificial intelligence would be coming to La Jolla for a speech. The scholarship was established in 2015 by CNS to encourage participation in systems and networking research by students who are active in supporting the LGBT community.
Despite his eminent contributions in cryptanalysis, computer science and artificial intelligence, Turing was imprisoned after World War II for his sexuality, and committed suicide in 1954. His life was the subject of an Academy Award-nominated 2014 film, The Imitation Game.
Sir Dermot Turing is more than just a nephew. He is an Oxford-trained geneticist-turned-solicitor (lawyer) and prolific author, and he was invited to give a public talk by the San Diego Biomedical Research Institute. So it was that Gonzalez, CNS administrator Jennifer Folkestad and former CNS staffer Kathy Krane — who had the original idea of creating a CNS scholarship in honor of Alan Turing — found themselves at The Scripps Research Institute near UC San Diego on October 28 to hear Sir Dermot talk about “Alan Turing: Myth and Methods”, as part of the institute’s Collaboration & Communications Seminar Series.
As detailed in his most recent book, “Professor Alan Turing Decoded”, the younger Turing largely debunks the myths of Alan Turing being a recluse, difficult to deal with, and a poor communicator. Using illustrations from Alan Turing’s work and personal accounts from colleagues of what he was like to work with, Sir Dermot traced the course of Turing’s achievements and described how his uncle arrived at his ideas.
Sir Dermot Turing remains a Trustee of Bletchley Park, the site of Britain’s ambitious effort to crack Germany’s Enigma code in World War II — for which Alan Turing was credited by Winston Churchill as saving millions of lives and making the single most important contribution to the Allied victory over Germany. In addition to being one of the world’s leading cryptanalysts and a founder of the science of artificial intelligence, Turing is widely considered one of the fathers of computer science, and to this day, the Turing Prize remains the top prize in the field — the equivalent of a Nobel for a field not yet a science when the Nobel Prizes were created in 1901.
According to Sir Dermot, his uncle was broadly influenced by mathematician Max Newman. It was a lecture by Newman in 1927, in which Newman mused whether mathematical solutions could be done by a mechanical device, that sparked Turing’s work on computing machines. “Alan Turing takes this thought and produces the amazing paper in which he comes up with the concept of a universal programmable computing machine,” said Sir Dermot. “He envisioned a multipurpose machine whose purpose would change as you feed it different code — something that would have been almost unimaginable in the 1930s.”
One myth debunked by Sir Dermot was that his uncle did all of his work alone. Perhaps his greatest achievement — breaking the German Enigma code in World War II — could not have happened without the work of three Polish mathematicians who reconstructed the German machine physically from intelligence reports in order to test Turing’s code. Further, “Turing wasn’t an engineer,” said Sir Dermot, “but he had a talented collaborator and engineer, Harold (Doc) Keen, to help design the codebreaking machine built at Bletchley following initial experiments with the Polish machine.”
The wartime code-breaking work at Britain’s Bletchley Park led to an effort after the war to tap technology to benefit British industry. “Alan Turing started thinking about turning the concept of a universal computing machine into reality,” Sir Dermot told the audience, eliciting laughter when he noted that “Turing worked on the country’s first major computing project, which evolved out of a debate about whether Britain would need in the long run one or two computing machines.” This was the very dawn of computers, and hence Turing’s reputation as one of the fathers of computer science.In 1950, while teaching at the University of Manchester, Turing also developed a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equal or indistinguishable from a human’s intelligence. To this day, the so-called Turing test remains the barometer of fully-developed artificial intelligence.
Turing also made significant contributions in other fields, including developmental biology (which he pursued in the last years of his life), philosophy (heavily influenced by discussions at Cambridge with Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein), and pure mathematics. “People are rediscovering his 1952 paper on the chemical basis of morphogenesis, about how non-uniformity in biological systems may arise naturally out of a homogeneous, uniform state,” said Sir Dermot. “Some experiments in just the last two years reached findings that can only be explained by Alan Turing’s work.”
At his death in 1954, Turing left two unfinished manuscripts that touched on both developmental biology and philosophy.
- CNS Grant Recipient Returns from Celebration of Women in Computing (2016)
Thanks to the Center for Networked Systems (CNS), Mansi Malik was able to attend what has become the premier conference for women in computer science (and for many men too). The second-year graduate student in Computer Science at UC San Diego was among the 35 UC San Diego students (including nine grad students) and 15,000 people overall attending the 2016 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing October 19-21 in Houston, TX.
[Pictured at right Mansi Malik, and below, l-r, CS majors in Houston included Ruchika Shivaswamy, Mansi Malik, Sakshi Gupta, Shivani Agrawal, Stephanie Chen, Ailie Fraser. Malik , Chen and Fraser are GradWIC officers this year.]
“It was really cool and exciting to see and meet so many women in computer science from all over,” says Malik, who expects to complete her M.S. degree in 2017. “A lot of great energy and excitement was going around, and there were inspiring talks by awesome speakers.” Malik says she was particularly inspired by the keynote speakers, including Latanya Sweeney, founder of Harvard’s Data Privacy Lab, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, and Megan Smith, who was appointed Chief Technology Officer of the United States in 2014 by President Obama, from her previous position as a vice president of Google[x], Google’s advanced products unit. Malik was also impressed with the keynote by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.
Since 2011, CNS has sent one, two or three graduate students each year to the conference in the form of travel grants. “CNS took care of everything from travel to meals, ensuring that I had a smooth trip,” observes Malik. “It was an honor to represent both CNS and Graduate Women in Computing [GradWIC], and I hope to continue the relationship between GradWIC and CNS going forward.”
Overall, she says, the conference was a valuable experience. “There were great networking opportunities through the career fair and company-sponsored events and lunches,” explains Malik. “I also talked to a lot of recruiters and engineers from tech companies about GradWIC and built some industry connections for us so that we can host more events.” She also appreciated a session on negotiating salaries, in which she learned that for every four men who dare to negotiate for a better starting salary, only one woman will attempt to negotiate – and the problem spills over into other areas because many women are unaware that they can negotiate for more than just salary.
“My specialization is in Computer Systems, and I got a chance to meet a lot of systems pioneers through the conference, including inspiring leaders from Qualcomm, Microsoft, Google, and other companies,” notes Malik. “Talks on networking and the Internet of Things were particularly interesting from a CNS perspective.”
In an after-conference report to CNS, Malik also noted that because of its rapid growth, “a lot of the interesting-sounding sessions were in small rooms and filled up well before they started, leaving hundreds of people looking for somewhere else to go.”
The sessions were also heavily focused on industry. “Most talks were presented by industry leaders, and even the talks about academia or research were geared toward faculty,” says Malik. “There could have been more research-related sessions oriented toward graduate students.”
“Thanks to everyone at CNS,” says Malik, “for giving me the opportunity to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration this year.”
Many of the previous recipients of CNS travel grants to Grace Hopper Celebrations were also officers in GradWIC, including former VP Neha Chachra (who attended the event in 2011), Publicity Manager Karyn Benson (2013), and GradWIC Secretary Malveeka Tewari (2014).
The previous winner, Vicky Papavasileiou, in 2015 is a CSE Ph.D. student as well. For a full list of past recipients, visit the travel grant page on the CNS website.
- Best Paper Award Goes to Operating Systems Researchers at OSDI 2016 (2016)
A team of current and former students of University of California San Diego Computer Science and Engineering professor Yuanyuan (YY) Zhou, together with a longtime industry collaborator, are the recipients of a Best Paper Award at the 12th USENIX Symposium on Operating Systems Design and Implementation (OSDI 16). The award was announced November 2 on the first day of the three-day conference in Savannah, GA. Sponsored by USENIX in cooperation with the ACM Special Interest Group on Operating Systems (SIGOPS), OSDI is the premier conference in the field of computer systems research.
The winning paper, “Early Detection of Configuration Errors to Reduce Failure Damage”*, was presented by first author and CNS/CSE Ph.D. student Tianyin Xu in a session on troubleshooting. In his talk, Xu presented a tool called PCHECK, which analyzes source code and automatically generates configuration checking code (dubbed ‘checkers’). Checkers emulate the late execution that uses configuration values, and detect latent-configuration (LC) errors at the initialization phase o the systems. “Compared with existing detection tools,” concluded Xu, “it can detect 31 percent more LC errors.” Xu and his co-authors developed PCHECK after realizing that up to 93 percent of widely-used software systems’ configurations “do not have any special code for checking the correctness of their settings at the system’s initialization time.” This makes such systems subject to LC errors in critically important configurations – notably those related to reliability, serviceability and availability.
According to Xu’s advisor, professor YY Zhou, “early detection is the key to minimizing failure damage induced by configuration errors, especially those errors in configurations that control failure handling and fault tolerance.” Zhou holds the Qualcomm Endowed Chair in Mobile Computing, a chair funded by Qualcomm, Inc., through its commitment to the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). She is also a member of the Center for Networked Systems (CNS).
In addition to Prof. Zhou and first author Xu, co-authors on the paper include CSE Ph.D. students Xinxin Jin and Long Jin (advised, respectively, by YY Zhou and Zhuowen Tu), and recent graduate Peng (Ryan) Huang (Ph.D ’16). Co-author Shan Lu is a former student of Zhou’s at the University of Illinois, but she is now a computer-science professor at the University of Chicago. Finally, Shankar Pasupathy, technical director of analytics at Network Appliance (NetApp), is a longtime industry collaborator with Zhou’s Operating Systems Research (Opera) group at UC San Diego.
The team behind the Best Paper award also presented their research in poster form during the Nov. 2 poster session at OSDI. In related news, CSE Prof. George Porter, who also co-directs the Center for Networked Systems (CNS) at UC San Diego, was also co-chair the OSDI poster committee, while also sitting on the symposium’s program committee.
*Early Detection of Configuration Errors to Reduce Failure Damage, by Tianyin Xu, Xinxin Jin, Peng Huang, Yuanyuan Zhou, Shan Lu, Long Jin, and Shankar Pasupathy, Proc., 12th USENIX Symposium on Operating Systems Design and Implementation (OSDI 16), November 2016
- Lead Engineer for Pokémon GO at CNS 2016 Fall Research Review (2016)
Next time you see someone playing Pokémon GO, the popular mobile phone-based game, keep in mind that a Computer Science and Engineering alumnus, Edward Wu (B.S. ’04) leads the groundbreaking game’s technical team.
Wu is a senior product manager at Niantic, the company that makes Pokémon GO and was spun off in October 2015 from Google, where Wu worked previously. He earned a dual bachelor’s degree in computer science and physics, and what he learned at UC San Diego is the basis of his success as an engineer, he said during a talk on campus Oct. 13 organized by the Center for Networked Systems (CNS). “I learned the core algorithms, the core fundamentals here,” Wu said. “There is no substitute for that.”
Wu stayed in touch with CSE Prof. Geoffrey Voelker on and off since 2004, and it was Voelker who invited Wu to speak on campus as part of CNS’s Fall 2016 research review. “Ed is an example for all our students to show that what they’re learning prepares you to go out into the world and make a difference,” said Voelker. “The world is now a different place because of Pokémon GO.”
In his talk, Wu gave an overview of all the engineering and troubleshooting that has to happen for users to catch Pokémon, get supplies, and battle in gyms on their smartphones, at any time and in any place from the United States to France, to Australia. “The key element is overlaying a single, consistent reality over the real world,” Wu explained.
This is all the more challenging because the game has been downloaded by more than 500 million people. Making Pokémon GO work for even a small fraction of these users is no small feat. Wu and his team spent most of July 2016 in a sleepless state while they were launching the game around the world. Demand was 50 times more than Niantic projected.
But Pokémon GO is more than just a game, Wu said. “It’s about going outside, going on walks and meeting people in the real world,” he said. The game requires players to walk around and hit up designed spots, called Pokéstops, to get supplies. Players need to physically be near the gym where they want to do battle. Players have logged more than 4.6 billion kilometers (about 2.8 billion miles) between the game’s launch in July and August of this year—that’s half the distance between Earth and Pluto.
Niantic also recently introduced a feature that allows players to get rewards to power up and evolve Pokémon for every kilometer (about 0.6 miles) they walk with their favorite Pokémon. Wu’s walking buddy is Psyduck, which looks like a cross between a yellow duck and a platypus, walks upright and has psychic powers.
During his CNS talk, Wu recalled how he tried his hand at developing a multiplayer game for the first time in CSE 125, a computer science class taught by Voelker. Wu and the rest of a student team created a real-time tactical combat game they called “Geteilte Stadt,” German for “a city divided.” During the class, he learned how to collaborate and work with others on complex technical problems, he said. He learned how to code, by himself and with others, and how to resolve disagreements around technical issues. “It was invaluable,” he said. Wu wore a tuxedo during the CSE 125 final presentations, when all teams demonstrated their games.
Wu was a Jacobs Scholar as an undergraduate at UC San Diego—a select group chosen for their academic achievements, leadership potential and commitment to community service. Jacobs Scholars receive full tuition and living expenses, as well invitations to cultural and other social events hosted by Joan and Irwin Jacobs, and access to a network of current and former Jacobs Scholars. In 2003, he was also a Calit2 Summer Undergraduate Scholar.
After graduating from UC San Diego, Wu earned a master’s in international policy studies and a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University. He worked at the RAND Corporation and then joined Google as a staff software engineer. At Google, he worked at Niantic Labs, which was then an autonomous unit within the company. There, he helped launch Ingress, the massive mobile augmented reality game that preceded Pokémon GO. Fun fact: most of the Pokéstops and gyms in Pokémon GO are based on Ingress portals.
Wu is currently in the process of earning an MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, even though he works in Seattle, WA.
Original story posted here:
- CNS Summer Internships: What They Did This Summer (2016)
Nearly a dozen UC San Diego graduate students spent the summer doing real-world R&D in industry. They were on internships with companies that turn to the university’s Center for Networked Systems (CNS) as a training ground for top students in systems and networking.
The companies included some of the hottest names in California high tech. Three students interned at Facebook: Louis DeKoven, Panagiotis Vekris, and Arjun Roy, and they worked, respectively, with advisors Mark Hammell, Nektarios Leontiadis, Aveek Chaudhuri and James Zeng (all of Facebook). Louis DeKoven must have felt right at home, after having done previous internships at Facebook the previous summer, and working with them as a research contractor in the first half of 2016 (a part-time position he resumed after the end of the internship). His latest internship focused on security research. Arjun Roy worked on a project about data center fault detection. Panagiotis Vekris (M.S. ’14) previously interned at Microsoft, and expects to finish his Ph.D. in 2017. Vekris’s research interests have been in programming languages, program analysis, verification and type systems.
The only other CNS member employing multiple interns over the summer of 2016 was Microsoft, in its Microsoft Research unit. CSE graduate students Marc Adrysco both spent their internships with the company in Redmond, WA. (Andrysco worked full-time for two years at Microsoft prior to enrolling in the Ph.D. program at UC San Diego.)
Among CNS member companies, Rob McGuinness interned at Google, where he worked with three advisors (including former CNS director Amin Vahdat) on sorting large data sets on Google’s cluster infrastructure, McGuinness’s UC San Diego advisor is CNS co-director George Porter.
Alex Forencich did his degrees in electrical engineering at UC San Diego (B.S., M.S., ’12, ’15) and expects to finish his Ph.D. in 2017. Since 2012, his research has focused on high-performance data center networking in CNS, and Forencich spent this summer at IBM.
Eric Seidel expects to complete his Ph.D. in computer science in 2017. His research area includes working on refinement type-based verifier for Haskell, and verified memory safety and functional correctness of Data Text library, in which he discovered and fixed a memory bug in the process. This summer he interned at Bloomberg with the company’s Mario Longobardi. In particular, Seidel worked on the information and publishing giant’s Haskell infrastructure.
Niki Vazou has also worked on LiquidHaskell, a static verifier for Haskell source code based on liquid types. In graduate school she has already done two summer internships at Microsoft, but this summer she spent at Awake Networks in Mountain View, CA. With a few dozen personnel, Awake is building a next-generation network security and analytics platform.
Sunjay Cauligi, who graduated from the University of Washington in June 2015 and received the award for outstanding computer-engineering senior, has two fellow UW alumni as his advisors in CSE: CNS co-director Stefan Savage and CSE Prof. Geoffrey Voelker. After finishing his first year in grad school, Cauligi spent the summer at Uber (with advisor Tao Peng), working on a good-user model using machine learning to exempt users with a history of non-fraudulent activity from having to suffer through the suite of fraud checks every user goes through during every trip request.
Finally, the only San Diego destination for a CNS intern this summer was Qualcomm, Inc. Ph.D. students Zhaomo Yang worked on isolating Linux device drivers using software-based fault isolation. His advisor at Qualcomm was Robert Turner, while his CNS mentor and advisor was CNS research scientist and CSE alumnus Kirill Levchenko (Ph.D. ‘08). Yang impressed attendees at the CNS 2016 Spring Research Review in April with a talk on “Fine-Grained Fault Isolation for Deep Packet Inspection Engines.”
Among the UC San Diego advisors in the program this summer, CSE Prof. Ranjit Jhala oversaw four graduate students working at Bloomberg (Eric Seidel), Awake Networks (Niki Vazou), Facebook (Panagiotis Vekris), and Microsoft Research (Marc Andrysco). CNS co-director Stefan Savage and Geoffrey Voelker advised two students: Louis DeKoven at Facebook and Sunjay Cauligi at Uber. Other UC San Diego advisors included Steven Swanson and Alex Snoeren.
CNS fosters relationships between industry and CNS graduate students by hosting twice-yearly research reviews that bring everyone together to share ideas. Additionally, the relationships that CNS faculty have with industry can lead to internships opportunities.
Note: The CNS Fall 2016 Research Review is scheduled for October 13-14 at UC San Diego. To register or request an invitation, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 858-534-5948.
- #1 Employer of CNS-Affiliated Recent Graduates? It’s Google (2016)
Most of the Ph.D. and M.S. students who worked in the labs of Center for Networked Systems (CNS) member faculty are well-positioned to land a great job after graduation. A few remain in academia, but the vast majority go to jobs in the technology industry, and not just any jobs. According to a survey of 16 CNS-affiliated graduate students who matriculated in 2015-2016, fully half of the mostly Computer Science and Engineering graduates now work for Google, with others going to fast-track jobs at Apple, Facebook, and other tech giants.
Staying in academia
Only a few graduating CNS students are staying in academic environments. According to CNS co-director George Porter, “that’s more than 18 percent of our 16 recent graduates, and that’s probably pretty standard among the top 20 schools.”
After working with his advisor, CSE Prof. YY Zhou, Peng (Ryan) Huang (Ph.D. ’16) was offered a tenure-track position as Assistant Professor in computer science at Johns Hopkins University. He was offered the job because the university is trying build a new area of strength in Huang’s area – computer systems. “I’m particularly interested in understanding growing problems in real-world systems and reflecting that understanding in new techniques to improve system reliability,” says Huang. In his dissertation, Huang analyzed the distinctive characteristics of failures in industrial-strength cloud systems. (For more on Huang, see news release at http://www.cse.ucsd.edu/node/2982.)
Since graduating in June 2015, Baris Aksanli (Ph.D. ’15) remains affiliated with CNS as a postdoctoral researcher in Tajana Rosing’s lab. Then in August 2016, he became an Assistant Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department of San Diego State University (SDSU), where Aksanli teaches embedded-systems courses and real-time operating systems. On the research side he continues to work on energy efficiency in various domains, including embedded systems, data centers, Internet of Things, and cyber-physical systems. Aksanli did two internships in graduate school, one at Intel (in 2012), the other at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (2011).
Bharathan Balaji (Ph.D. ’16), who previously received his M.S. in 2011 from the ECE department before transferring to CSE, is also remaining in academia. He recently joined UCLA as a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Prof. Mani Srivastava, a longtime collaborator of Balaji’s UCSD advisor Rajesh Gupta (and co-advisor Yuvraj Agarwal, now at Carnegie Mellon). Balaji’s research focused on improving energy efficiency of buildings by creating software applications that exploit existing infrastructure to provide services such as information organization, fault detection, personalized control, and sensing when an occupant is in the building. As a grad student, Balaji did an internship at Ericsson Research (working on a Wi-Fi-based occupancy sensing solution).
Google hires 50% of CNS recent graduates
Google may be the most sought-after employer of computer science Ph.D. graduates, so it’s perhaps no surprise that Google hired more CNS recent graduates than any other company (all of them armed with degrees from CSE at UC San Diego). Fully half of the graduates – eight of the 16 CNS recent alumni – are now employed at Google.
On September 15, Wilson Wing-Soon Lian (M.S., Ph.D. ’13, ’16) defends his dissertation on “JIT Spraying Threats on ARM and Defense by Diversification”. Lian’s dissertation committee was co-chaired by his advisors, Stefan Savage and Hovav Shacham. Lian says his research interests are “broadly in security and privacy, but lately I’ve been looking at the security of Just-In-Time compilers.” As a graduate student from 2010 to 2016, he was hired and re-hired at Google for three summer internships in 2012, 2013 and 2015, so it’s no surprise that, with his Ph.D. in sight, Lian has already accepted a job at… Google. He’ll be a full-time software engineer.
Jagannathan Venkatesh (Ph.D. ‘16) graduated in June after defending his dissertation on “A Context-Aware Approach to Residential Grid Automation.” In his thesis, Venkatesh proposed “using context – additional high-level information – about elements of the smart grid (sources, loads and storage) to improve the efficiency of its operations.” At the all-campus graduation ceremony, his advisor Tajana Rosing was on hand (pictured at right with Venkatesh). Today the CSE and CNS alumnus works at Google, where he had previously done three internships in 2011, 2012 and 2013, including the development of a testing framework for video ads, a tool to search, analyze and debug Google’s social back-end data, and designing user interfaces that are intuitive to users and reusable by developers.
Mike Conley (M.S., Ph.D. ’12, ’15) completed graduate school in computer science under George Porter and Amin Vahdat. His primary research interests were in the areas of big data, I/O-intensive computation, distributed systems, cloud computing, MapReduce, data centers and high-speed sorting. Conley’s doctoral dissertation on “Achieving Efficient I/O with High-Performance Data Center Technologies,” focused on the performance of storage and network I/O in large-scale distributed systems (notably on TritonSort and Themis), and he demonstrated how to run such applications on a wide variety of hardware platforms, from solid-state disks to supercomputers. Since October 2015, Conley has been a software engineer at Google in Mountain View, CA, where he also did internships in 2010 and 2011.
Tristan Halvorson (Ph.D. ’15) studied the domain name market, measuring the market with web and whois data to determine the goal of domain name registrants. Previously with his advisors Stefan Savage and Geoffrey Voelker, Halvorson investigated email spam from a monetary perspective by measuring many email spammers’ costs and revenue. He also spent the summer of 2012 on an internship with Yahoo!’s email anti-spam team, with whom he analyzed data on Hadoop to look for compromised webmail accounts.) On graduation, he joined Google as a software engineer.
Rishi Kapoor (M.S., Ph.D ’11, ’15) is now a software engineer at Google, where he had previously done two summer internships in the company’s platform networking group. He completed his Ph.D. under Amin Vahdat and George Porter. His research interests were in areas including systems, data center networks, distributed networks and network security. Kapoor’s primary focus was on integrating the end-host stack with the data center network fabric. “By coupling the end host and the data center network fabric,” argued Kapoor, “it is possible to achieve stringent performance properties of next-generation data center networks and applications.”
He (Lonnie) Liu (Ph.D. ’15) joined Google after completing his doctorate, despite having done two summer internships at Microsoft Research. He worked under Geoffrey Voelker and Stefan Savage in the Systems and Networking group of CSE. Liu was the first author of a December 2015 published report on “Scheduling Technologies for Circuit/Packet Networks”, co-authored with his advisors as well as other CNS members including George Porter, Alex Snoeren and George Papen.
Malveeka Tewari (M.S., Ph.D. ’11, ’15) worked under advisors George Porter and Amin Vahdat. Her areas of interest included Networked Systems, Distributed Computing, Data Center Networks, and Software-Defined Networks. As a graduate student, she did one internship at Amazon Web Services and spent the summers of 2011 and 2012 at Google in Mountain View, CA. For her dissertation, Tewari focused on “Enabling Fine-Grained Network Flow Management in Data Center Networks and Servers.” She now works at Google as a software engineer.
After completing her computer-science degree in June, Liqiong Yang (M.S. ’16) became one of the latest CSE graduates hired by Google, which she joined in August as a software engineer in the Cloud SQL group. Yang was a computer-science research assistant for two years at Peking University before enrolling in the master’s program at UC San Diego in 2012. She also did a software engineering internship at China’s Baidu, Inc., and, in summer 2015, Yang did an internship with CSE Prof. YY Zhou’s Whova startup. She has also TA’d courses in discrete mathematics (CSE 20) and operating systems (CSE 120).
Apple, Facebook lead other high-tech hires
Following Bhanu Chandra Vattikonda’s move to Apple after the 2014-2015 school year (and getting his Ph.D. under Alex Snoeren), another CNS student accepted an employment offer at Apple. Keaton Mowery (Ph.D. ’15) now works there too, after finishing his dissertation under Hovav Shacham. His research interests focused on web security, privacy and general systems security.
Neha Chachra (Ph.D. ’15) is now a research scientist at Facebook. As a member of the Systems and Networking group in CSE, she was advised by professors Stefan Savage and Geoffrey Voelker (her co-authors on a paper delivered at the 2015 Internet Measurement Conference (“Affiliate Crookies: Characterizing Affiliate Marketing Abuse”). Chachra defended her dissertation in December 2015.
Karyn Benson (Ph.D. ’16) used UC San Diego’s Network Telescope while working and doing research on networks and security in the Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA) in the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). Under advisors Alex Snoeren and K.C. Claffy as well as SDSC’s Alberto Dainotti, she wrote her dissertation on “Opportunistic Internet Measurement with Darknet Traffic.” Benson is now at Akamai Technologies as a performance engineer.
Jinseok Yang (M.S., Ph.D. ’11, ’15) worked under Tajana Rosing starting in 2011. He completed his doctorate in Communication Theory and Systems. Primarily focused on embedded systems, Yang joined LG Advanced Research, after having done a summer internship at in 2012. While in ECE, Yang’s research focused on energy efficiency and data quality in distributed wireless sensor networks, including performance optimization. Eventually those interests evolved beyond sensor networking to include other aspects of networking systems, including applications to the smart grid, sensor swarms (on the multi-university TerraSwarm project launched in 2013) and recommendation systems. Before UC San Diego, Yang received a first master’s degree in 2008 from Ajou University, where he also did his undergraduate work in his native Korea.
Matthew Der (M.S., Ph.D. ’13, ’15) was advised by Lawrence Saul, Stefan Savage and Geoffrey Voelker. His research focused on machine learning and applications to security, in particular, web page clustering and classification. His dissertation focused on “Investigating Large-Scale Internet Abuse Through Web Page Classification.” In the summers of 2011 and 2012, Der interned at Google in San Francisco. Notable publications included “Knock It Off: Profiling the Online Storefronts of Counterfeit Merchandise,” jointly with CNS member faculty Saul, Savage and Voelker. After graduation, Der returned home to Richmond, VA, to become CTO for Notch, a software consulting firm.
- Alumna Suggests Possible Path for a Centralized Cryptocurrency (2016)
After completing graduate school in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) at UC San Diego, Sarah Meiklejohn (Ph.D. ’14) moved half-way round the world to become a professor of computer science and cybersecurity at University College London in the UK. She continued to do groundbreaking work on cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, and in February 2016 she returned briefly to San Diego to present a paper at the 2016 Network and Distributed System Security (NDSS) Symposium. The topic: “Centrally Banked Cryptocurrencies.”
In it, Meiklejohn and fellow University College London professor George Danezis envisioned a cryptocurrency called RSCoin that could be issued by a central bank and which could get around some of the pitfalls inherent in Bitcoin, the most widely used cryptocurrency today. Those obstacles: scalability, transparency, and governments’ inability to control the supply of Bitcoin.
Sarah Meiklejohn is already one of the best-known experts in the world on the subject of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The CSE alumna co-authored a series of high-profile papers starting with “A Fistful of Bitcoins,” which she presented at the 2013 Internet Measurement Conference in Barcelona. In it, Meiklejohn and her co-authors presented a “longitudinal characterization of the Bitcoin network, focusing on the growing gap — due to certain idioms of use — between the potential anonymity available in the Bitcoin protocol design and the actual anonymity that is currently achieved by users.” Put simply, the Bitcoin to which many criminals flocked to take advantage of its vaunted anonymity, was found to be not so anonymous after all.
(A further journal iteration of “A Fistful of Bitcoins” was published in the Communications of the ACM in April 2016, again with co-authors including one of her Ph.D. advisors, Stefan Savage, director of the Center for Networked Systems at UC San Diego.)
Meiklejohn also included Bitcoin in her Ph.D. dissertation on “Flexible Models for Secure Systems,” for which she received UC San Diego’s 2015 Chancellor’s Dissertation Medal. She was nominated for the medal by her other Ph.D. advisor, CSE professor Mihir Bellare, who noted that Meiklejohn’s thesis helped shape government policy, including through a novel technique to track Bitcoins that is “now used as a key forensic tool by law enforcement.”
In 2015, Meiklejohn and fellow UCL professor Danezis noticed something in the Bank of England’s One Bank Research Agenda. “The Bank speculated on how central banks might issue cryptocurrency,” recalls Meiklejohn. “That is what got us started.” The result was an academic article by Meiklejohn and Danezis on “Centrally Banked Cryptocurrencies,” which she presented at NDSS 2016. The paper introduced a cryptocurrency framework called RSCoin. Like Bitcoin, it would be a decentralized blockchain-based transaction ledger where all computers in a network must approve a transaction before it is recorded in a new ‘block’. That is how new Bitcoins and other blockchain-based currencies generate digital money supply.
But unlike Bitcoin, the RSCoin framework “decouples the generation of monetary supply from the maintenance of the transaction ledger.” In short, whereas the supply of Bitcoin is determined (up to a maximum) by the number of new blocks created using decentralized computers, the supply of RSCoin would be decided by the central bank (as occurs with the money supply of regular currency).
In addition to giving that power to a central bank, RSCoin would get around another challenge to the Bitcoin market: scalability. The computational costs of generating new Bitcoin means that the Bitcoin system can handle only seven transactions per second, whereas PayPal processes 100 transactions per second, and credit-card company Visa as many as 7,000 transactions per second.
As proposed by Meiklejohn and Danezis, RSCoin would remain based on blockchain technology, but a central bank could appoint a limited number of banks to process RSCoin transactions for the ledger through a “distributed set of authorities, or mintettes, to prevent double-spending.” The central bank would hold a signing key with which it could effectively maintain control over supply of the digital currency.
“While monetary policy is centralized, RSCoin still provides strong transparency and auditability guarantees,” explained Meiklejohn at NDSS 2016. “We have demonstrated, both theoretically and experimentally, the benefits of a modest degree of centralization, such as the elimination of wasteful hashing and a scalable system for avoiding double-spending attacks.”
The researchers also argue that RSCoin would not sacrifice transparency, and it would use cryptography to combat counterfeiting.
The researchers at UCL tested their envisioned cryptocurrency on Amazon Web Services’ cloud computing platform, and they have published code for RSCoin in the Github repository. Whether RSCoin or a cryptocurrency like it ever sees the light of day is purely speculative. So far, it has been a research-only effort, but it wouldn’t be surprising if a central bank looks seriously at their research. After all, a number of countries are already exploring the use of blockchain technology for their own purposes. The People’s Bank of China, for example, recently announced that it is working with Citibank and Deloitte on a cybercurrency based on blockchain technology, and Australia’s largest stock exchange is looking at distributed ledger technology to replace current clearing and settlement services subsequent to buy-or-sell stock transactions.
Meanwhile, the UC San Diego alumna continues to play a critical role in studying and discussing innovations in cryptocurrency. In June 2016 Meiklejohn co-organized the Summer School on Blockchain Technologies for the International Association for Cryptologic Research (IACR), and last February in Barbados, she co-chaired the third Workshop on Bitcoin and Blockchain Research.
Sarah Meiklejohn Website http://www0.cs.ucl.ac.uk/staff/S.Meiklejohn/
Centrally Banked Cryptocurrencies Paper http://www0.cs.ucl.ac.uk/staff/S.Meiklejohn/files/ndss16.pdf
- CNS Faculty Play Leadership Role at SIGCOMM (2016)
SIGCOMM 2016 – the week-long annual meeting of the ACM Special Interest Group on Data Communication – wrapped up Aug. 26 in Florianopolis, Brazil – the first time the conference has taken place in Latin America. The event moves to Los Angeles for SIGCOMM 2017, and UC San Diego computer scientist Alex Snoeren will co-chair the 2017 conference. CSE Prof. Snoeren (right) is a faculty member of the Center for Networked Systems (CNS), and one of half a dozen CNS members who have played leadership roles in one of the largest professional research communities in systems and networking.
2017 will not be the first time that CNS’s Snoeren has helped organize the SIGCOMM conference. In 2008, he co-chaired the committee responsible for workshops and tutorials. Other current or former faculty from UC San Diego have co-chaired SIGCOMM’s program committee. Former CNS director Amin Vahdat co-chaired the program committee in Brazil this year with Stanford’s Sachin Katti. (Vahdat remains an adjunct professor in CSE, but his primary employer now is Google.)
The roster of CNS faculty members co-chairing the SIGCOMM program committee in recent years includes (pictured below, left to right) Amin Vahdat (2016), Stefan Savage (2008), Geoffrey Voelker (2010), and George Varghese (2012). SIGCOMM 2012 took place shortly before Varghese left UC San Diego to become a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research. (Varghese also won the ACM SIGCOMM Award in 2014 for his “sustained and diverse contributions to network algorithmics, with far-reaching impact in both research and industry.”)
In addition to faculty who co-chaired SIGCOMM’s program committee through the years, other faculty have contributed to the process as a member of the committee (e.g., CNS co-director George Porter and ECE’s George Papen sat on the committee in 2015, and CSE’s Hovav Shacham did likewise with CNS research scientist Kirill Levchenko in 2012.
Indeed, every year since 2000, there has been a minimum of one CNS faculty member helping to chart the direction and agenda of SIGCOMM and its annual meeting. And in each of the past two years, four computer scientists and engineers have represented CNS and UC San Diego on the 2015 (Savage, Voelker, Porter and Papen) and 2016 (Vahdat, Papen, Snoeren and Voelker) program committees.
It’s not just CNS faculty who have taken on the responsibility of helping to steer SIGCOMM. In late August, CSE alumna Renata Teixeira (Ph.D. ’05) attended SIGCOMM in Brazil in her capacity as Vice Chair of the society – a position she will hold through June 2017. The Brazilian-born Teixeira did her doctorate under CSE Prof. Geoffrey Voelker, one of CNS’s founding faculty members in 2004. Still a citizen of her native Brazil, Teixeira is also a French citizen, after working for France’s National Institute for Computer Science and Applied Mathematics (INRIA Paris) since she left UC San Diego in 2006 (after receiving CSE’s Best Dissertation Award for her doctoral thesis on network sensitivity to intradomain routing changes).
- UC San Diego Names Computer Engineer to Fratamico Endowed Chair (2016)
Tajana Rosing is among the latest faculty in the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department rewarded with endowed chairs at the University of California San Diego. The campus named professor Rosing to the John J. and Susan M. Fratamico Endowed Chair in the Jacobs School of Engineering.
Established in 2012 with a $750,000 gift from the Fratamicos, the endowed chair supports multidisciplinary research that includes engineering and the life sciences. Rosing is the inaugural holder of the chair.
“This honor allows me the freedom to focus on new and challenging research questions over the summer with my best and brightest students,” said Rosing, who joined the CSE faculty in 2005. “That kind of freedom wouldn’t be possible without the funding from the Fratamico chair.”
The computer-engineering professor is affiliated with the Qualcomm Institute and Contextual Robotics Institute as well as the Center for Networked Systems. Rosing is also a member of the Centers for Wearable Sensors, Energy Research, Sustainable Power and Energy, as well as Wireless and Population Health Systems and the San Diego Supercomputer Center.
The department and the campus are planning to honor Rosing at an event scheduled for January. “We are extremely thankful to longtime San Diegans John and Susan Fratamico for making it possible to bestow on Rosing a long-overdue honor in recognition of her ambitious research agenda and its real-world applications,” said CSE department chair Dean Tullsen. “Endowed chairs are often awarded to retain exceptional scholars, and in Professor Rosing’s case, her creativity and approach to research have had a deep impact on innovation in computer engineering.”
On the research side, Rosing’s System Energy Efficiency Lab (SEELab) focuses on energy efficiency in all kinds of systems, from sensor nodes to data centers, transport networks and power grids. In addition to energy-efficient computing, her primary research interests include context-aware computing, human-cyber-physical system design, embedded systems hardware and software design, resource management at the system level, and the design of approximate and highly efficient architectures. Going forward, Rosing will continue investigating efficient, distributed data collection, aggregation and processing of this data in the context of smart cities, wireless healthcare, the distributed Smart Grid for electricity, and Internet of Things applications.
Rosing is a leading researcher in the area of using information present in wireless systems to achieve more efficient system operation. This information can come from sensors’ observations of human behavior and needs, and also from various other environmental sensing systems, both stationary and mobile. Rosing’s recent work has focused on efficiently extracting knowledge about context from such sensing sources, and leveraging that knowledge to implement distributed control algorithms for large-scale Internet of Things applications underlying Smart Cities infrastructure. A recent example includes using drones to detect areas of higher air pollution collaboratively and dynamically, and to provide this feedback in real time in emergencies (e.g., forest fires), and in normal daily life (such as air pollution due to recent fertilization of nearby fields, or due to higher than normal and localized smog conditions).
The computer engineer has also leveraged context to optimize the operation and design of embedded systems by maximizing energy efficiency in exchange for controllable and tolerable inaccuracies in computation. According to Rosing, this research resulted in systems that are up to 1,000 times more energy efficient with less than a 10 percent error in computation. “These systems are especially applicable to many Internet of Things applications where the data sources themselves are not completely accurate,” said Rosing, noting that sensors can often have around 10 percent inaccuracy. “The large scale of data that is analyzed requires the application of statistical machine learning to provide information needed for feedback to people (e.g., local air-quality problems) or for control of other devices (e.g., where drones need to fly).
Since 2013, Rosing has played a leadership role in the TerraSwarm Research Center, a consortium addressing the huge potential (and associated risks) of pervasive integration of smart, networked sensors and actuators in the connected world. The center is administered by the Semiconductor Research Corp. (SRC), with funding from DARPA and SRC industry partners including Intel, IBM, Texas Instruments and other companies. Rosing’s work on TerraSwarm focuses on context-aware computing with applications to proactive worlds and smart cities. Similarly, her work on air-quality monitoring in the CitiSense project with its principal investigator, CSE Prof. Bill Griswold, is part of the initial infrastructure for the Smart City testbed.
Asked about the real-world impact of her research in a recent issue of the UC San Diego alumni magazine Triton, Rosing cited longer battery life for smartphones. “My work involves optimizing the battery life, communication and storage of portable electronic devices, including cell phones, laptops and sensors,” Rosing told the magazine. “I also work on large systems, for example, optimizing smart servers to maximize quality of service while minimizing power consumption.”
“This research translates into significant energy savings,” she added.
In addition to teaching at the graduate (including Introduction to Embedded Systems) and undergraduate level (Introduction to Digital System Design), Rosing has taught an embedded systems course that is part of the Master of Advanced Studies program in Wireless and Embedded Systems (WES 237A) at UC San Diego, and more recently has taught the Introduction to the Internet of Things course (CSE 291).
Before UC San Diego, Rosing was a full-time researcher at HP Labs focusing on low-power wireless media and embedded systems. While at HP Labs in Palo Alto, she finished her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at Stanford in 2000 and 2001, respectively. Rosing’s doctoral dissertation topic was “Dynamic Management of Power Consumption.” Prior to HP Labs and Stanford, she worked as a senior design engineer at Altera Corporation.
John Fratamico is the senior vice president and general manager of the Advanced Concepts Business Unit of Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and serves on the Council of Advisors at the Jacobs School. Susan Fratamico is the director of Strategic Planning at San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E).
In the interview with Triton magazine, Rosing was asked, “Throughout history, whose chair would you most want to sit in?” Her reply: “Marie Curie—she was amazing!”
- NOVA Paves the Way for Storage Class Memory File Systems (2016)
Intel expects to start selling 3D Xpoint storage class memory (SCM) before the end of 2016 in the form of its Optane solid-state device (SSD). But experts believe the real payoff from SCM will come when systems connect the SCM directly to the processor, yielding hybrid memory systems that include volatile and non-volatile memories. Computer engineers in CSE and the Center for Networked Systems (CNS) at UC San Diego anticipate that these new memory systems will provide software with sub-microsecond, high-bandwidth access to persistent data.
But there’s a catch: According to CSE Prof. Steven Swanson and Ph.D. student Jian Xu, existing file systems built for spinning or SSDs create software overheads that can obscure the gains expected from SCM systems.
Enter NOVA, a log-structured file system proposed by Xu and Swanson in a paper* delivered earlier this year at the USENIX Conference on File and Storage Technologies (FAST) in Santa Clara, and a variation presented at UC San Diego’s 2016 Non-Volatile Memory Workshop (organized by Swanson). The proposed NOVA system is designed to maximize performance on hybrid volatile/non-volatile memory systems, while providing strong consistency guarantees. In the paper’s abstract, Xu and Swanson explained, “NOVA adapts conventional log-structured file system techniques to exploit the fast random access that SCMs provide. In particular, it maintains separate logs for each inode to improve concurrency and stores the file data outside the log to minimize log size and reduce garbage collection costs.
The system’s logs therefore provide metadata, data, and mmap atomicity and focus on simplicity and reliability, keeping complex metadata structures in DRAM to accelerate lookup operations. “NOVA’s multi-log design achieves high concurrency, efficient garbage collection and fast recovery,” said Xu in his presentation to the FAST audience. “NOVA also outperforms existing file systems while providing stronger consistency and atomicity guarantees.” Indeed, experimental results showed that in write-intensive workloads, NOVA provides 22% to 216x throughout improvement compared to state-of-the-art file systems, and 3.1x to 13.5x improvement compared to file systems that provide equally strong data consistency guarantees.
“Upcoming [SCM] technologies… promise faster writes, higher endurance and greater longevity than the NAND flash used in today’s SSDs,” wrote storage expert Robin Harris in reviewing the NOVA paper for his blog, StorageMojo. “Systems won’t be able to take advantage of [SCM] technology until their DRAM and disk I/O stacks are re-engineered for the specific advantages and quirks of [SCM].”*NOVA: A Log-structured File System for Hybrid Volatile/Non-volatile Main Memories, by Jian Xu and Steven Swanson,14th USENIX Conference on File and Storage Technologies (FAST), Santa Clara, Calif., February 25, 2016
- CNS Espresso Prize for Excellence in Networking 2016 Awardee (2016)
Every academic year, the Computer Science and Engineering department offers the class CSE 123, Computer Networks. In this class, students are introduced to concepts, principles, and practice of computer communication networks with examples from existing architectures, protocols, and standards. Students are expected to complete a final project showing how they use the concepts they have learned to resolve a problem posed by the instructor.
Dr. George Varghese, a former CSE professor, taught CSE 123 for almost a decade and always enjoyed seeing the many ways that students implemented their final projects. When Dr. Varghese departed from UC San Diego in 2013, he left behind a gift to fund an annual prize to be awarded to the students who produce the best final projects in CSE 123.
The CNS Espresso Prize for Excellence in Networking is awarded by the current professor for CSE 123, Alex C. Snoeren, based upon criteria set by him for the given final project assigned each year.
Previous Recipients of the CNS Espresso Prize for Excellence in Networking:
2016 Undergraduate recipient: Conner Johnston
2014 Undergraduate recipient: Aaron Yip Ming Wong
2014 Visiting Undergraduate recipient: Matheus Venturyne Xavier Ferreira
2013 Undergraduate recipient: Jacob Maskiewicz
2013 Graduate recipient: Vidya Kirupanidhi
- Stefan Savage Named to Irwin and Joan Jacobs Chair (2016)
Just days after he accepted the prestigious ACM-Infosys Foundation Award, University of California San Diego professor Stefan Savage received another honor: the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering announced that Savage has been awarded an endowed faculty chair named for two of the school’s major donors: the Irwin Mark and Joan Klein Jacobs Chair in Information and Computer Science.
The appointment of Savage to the Jacobs Chair was the second faculty chair announcement in as many weeks. Previously, CSE computer graphics and vision professor Ravi Ramamoorthi was tapped to be the inaugural holder of the Ronald L. Graham Chair of Computer Science (for details, click here for news release). The Graham Chair was named for professor Ron Graham, who recently retired but maintains an emeritus faculty position in the department. In doing so, Graham – the previous holder of the Jacobs Chair – relinquished it, thus paving the way for Stefan Savage to assume the endowed chair.
“From the moment he arrived at UC San Diego in 2001, Stefan Savage has been a star on the CSE faculty, with broad interests in systems and networking as well as security,” said CSE Chair Rajesh Gupta.
Added Jacobs School Dean Al Pisano: “The Jacobs Chair is the oldest in the Jacobs School, and it was important that its holder be a professor who is not only a great researcher and teacher, but also that he or she have played a critical role beyond the campus, as Professor Savage has done in cybersecurity.”
On June 11, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) presented Savage with the ACM-Infosys Foundation Award at its annual awards banquet in San Francisco. The honor recognized the finest recent innovations by young scientists and system developers in the computing field. The Infosys Foundation provides financial support for the $175,000 annual award.
“Keeping networks secure is an ongoing battle,” said ACM President Alexander L. Wolf. “Stefan Savage has shifted thinking and prompted us to ask ourselves how we might impede the fundamental support structure of an attacker. His frameworks will continue to significantly influence network security initiatives in the coming years.”
“Dr. Savage is a true innovator, pursuing his curiosity and passion toward new frontiers in cybersecurity and exemplifying the kind of work that the ACM-Infosys Foundation Award is proud to support,” added Infosys CEO and Managing Director, Dr. Vishal Sikka. “Dr. Savage has dedicated his career to analyzing, protecting and strengthening the systems and networks that make our digital age possible. From network congestion control, worms and malware to wireless security, his work has helped advance a wide range of areas.”
One day before he accepted the ACM-Infosys Foundation Award, Savage was in Seattle at his alma mater, the University of Washington (UW). The university’s Computer Science and Engineering department presented him on June 10 with its Alumni Achievement Award.
Savage joined UC San Diego in 2000 as an acting assistant professor until he defended his dissertation at UW in January 2002.
Surprisingly, Savage did not start out in computer science, much less cybersecurity. He earned his undergraduate degree in Applied History at Carnegie Mellon University. For graduate school he switched to Computer Science for his Ph.D. at UW under advisors Brian Bershad and Tom Anderson.
It was already clear at that point that Savage would be able to write his own ticket in academia. He received job offers from Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley and UC San Diego, plus several others. He says that he picked UC San Diego because it was the best “cultural fit”.
“My research career has been idiosyncratic to say the least and I have been incredibly lucky to not only have colleagues who are intellectually broad and curious, but also an administration that understands the value of supporting those qualities,” noted Savage.
Much of Savage’s early research focused on operating systems. In 2010 ACM named him a Fellow of the association, citing his “contributions to large-scale systems and network security.” Then in 2013, ACM honored him again with the ACM SIGOPS Mark Weiser Award – referring specifically to his creativity and innovation in operating systems research.
He then turned his attention to battling cyber drug crime and shutting down counterfeit software sales by tracking the flow of money to the source. In one high-profile study, Savage and colleagues determined that, for each $100 purchase of Viagra in response to a spam email, spammers needed to send approximately 12 million emails – but that spammers could still make a profit due to very low costs.
“Some of our most influential work involved purchasing counterfeit drugs from criminals to track the flow of money across the world,” said Savage. “This not the kind of research methodology that makes campus administrators comfortable, but while it would have been easy to tell us we couldn’t do it, the core philosophy at UC San Diego has always been to ‘find a way’ to make the research mission succeed.”
Savage also co-founded several research centers to pursue work on security. The Center for Automotive Embedded Systems focused on the growing concentration of electronics in the automotive sector. He also led the Collaborative Center for Internet Epidemiology and Defense (CCIED) to find new ways to defend against Internet attacks. (The center, funded by a National Science Foundation CyberTrust grant, was a partnership with the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) at Berkeley.) After the completion of the CCIED project, Savage and his counterpart at ICSI set up an interdisciplinary research partnership in 2012 with former CSE postdoctoral researcher Damon McCoy, now a professor at New York University. Their Center for Evidence-Based Security Research (CESR) is funded by NSF through its Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program, through 2017, with additional funds coming from industry partners.
In addition to co-leading the highly successful Center for Networked Systems (CNS), Savage also leads the security and cryptography group at UCSD and is an active collaborator with Peter Cowhey in the School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) on security policy. With Cowhey, he also co-teaches a popular course on security policy.
Among his other distinctions, Savage was awarded a faculty research fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (2004). To date, he has published more than 130 peer-reviewed journal articles and conference papers on topics as diverse as the economics of e-crime, characterizing availability, automotive systems and security, routing protocols, and data center virtualization.
Click here to read the full news release on the CSE website.
2015 ACM-Infosys Foundation Award in the Computing Sciences
2016 UW CSE Alumni Achievement Award
Center for Evidence-Based Security Research
Stefan Savage Homepage
- CSE/CNS Ph.D. Student Accepts Tenure-Track Faculty Position at Johns Hopkins (2016)
As more postdoctoral researchers and Ph.D. candidates make the rounds of universities in the market for new faculty in computer science, computer engineering or bioinformatics, another CSE soon-to-be-graduate is headed to teach and do research in computer science at Johns Hopkins University.
Peng (Ryan) Huang recently cut short his tour of potential employers when, just two days after interviewing at Johns Hopkins, its CS department offered him a tenure-track faculty position. He ended up canceling interviews on several other campuses. Huang is set to graduate this year, but he has decided to do a postdoctoral fellowship prior to taking up residence at Johns Hopkins in Fall 2017. (He is still deciding where to do his postdoc.)
It appears that Johns Hopkins found in Huang someone who could help build a new area of strength for its Computer Science department. His research area is computer systems. “I’m particularly interested in understanding growing problems in real-world systems and reflecting that understanding in new techniques to improve system reliability,” said Huang, whose advisor is CSE Prof. Yuanyuan (YY) Zhou.
In his dissertation, Huang analyzes the distinctive characteristics of failures in industrial-strength cloud systems. Motivated by those findings, he then tackled a common source of failures in the cloud: configuration errors. To tackle those errors, Huang designed a specification language and a framework by which to validate configuration for cloud-scale systems efficiently. “Thanks to Prof. Zhou and UCSD,” he said, “I had opportunities to conduct many of my research projects in a practical setting by collaborating with leading companies, including Microsoft, Teradata, and Facebook.”Huang says he was at first intimidated by the “intensity and difficulty” of navigating the academic job market. “Many people at UCSD helped me with my application material, slides, my talk and interviewing,” he noted. “My advisor gave me countless tips on how to organize the job talk, prepare for a phone interview, chat during one-on-one meetings and much more, and other faculty allowed me to practice my job talk in their research seminars.”Asked what might have set him apart from other candidates for the Johns Hopkins position, Huang says one professor told him that he pays close attention to how a faculty candidate tells the story in his or her job talk – “and he really liked my storyline, which Prof. Zhou helped me revise extensively.”Huang did a few other interviews after Johns Hopkins and got a second offer to compare what Hopkins was offering, then canceled other interviews and accepted the job in Baltimore. He says the university is investing in the area of computer systems, so his research is closely aligned with Johns Hopkins’ hiring priorities.Huang is also getting ready for a trip to Singapore later this month, where he will present a paper at MobiSys ’16 on “DefDroid: Towards a More Defensive Mobile OS Against Disruptive App Behavior.” The paper is on hardening mobile operating systems to better shield users from “naughty” mobile apps that can aggressively drain battery, eat data plans, and so on. Huang also created a one-minute short video pitch for the DefDroid paper. View his video pitch on YouTube at https://youtu.be/lguUoitv80U.The assistant professor-to-be has been at UC San Diego since 2010. He joined Prof. Zhou in the Systems and Networking group after finishing two undergraduate degrees at Peking University (BS in Computer Science and BA in Economics, both in 2010).
- Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship Awarded to Valeria Gonzalez! (2016)
The Center for Networked Systems (CNS) is proud to announce Electrical Engineering undergraduate Valeria Gonzalez as the recipient of the Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship! The 2015-2016 academic year is the inaugural year for the Turing ($10,000) scholarship and is awarded to a UC San Diego undergraduate student majoring in computer science, or any program touching on networked systems, who is active in supporting the LGBT community. All scholarship recipients will have the opportunity to be involved in CNS research projects of mutual interest and will be invited to the CNS Research Reviews.
While the campus scholarship office handled applications, CNS co-director and CSE Prof. George Porter says the center was impressed with Gonzalez. “We met with her and she’s a wonderful person and very interested in research, which is great,” said Porter. “I am confident that she’ll attend graduate school and continue her pursuit of research.”“I am very excited and honored to have received the Alan Turing Scholarship,” wrote Gonzalez in a Facebook post. “It’s great to see the CNS is taking the initiative to highlight the importance of bringing diversity to computer science and engineering beyond ethnicity and the gender binary. The LGBT community encompasses people with an array of talents and abilities, people such as Alan Turing himself and his pioneering work in computer science. Knowing that your LGBT identity is acknowledged and accepted not only lets you direct all your focus into working hard but also allows you to connect more with the community you’re part of.”Gonzalez expects to graduate in 2017, but she has already had the opportunity to engage in hands-on research (a key factor in winning the Turing scholarship). Starting last summer, she was an undergraduate student researcher in the Integrated Electronics and Bio-Interfaces Lab under her advisor, ECE Prof. Shadi Dayeh. Gonzalez grew up in Paramount, a small city east of Compton in the southern part of Los Angeles County. She attended Cypress College, a comprehensive community college near Paramount, and later transferred to UC San Diego.
- Professor George Porter, recipient of NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award (2016)George Porter is among the latest recipients of Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The funding agency has earmarked nearly $700,000 for a four-year project on “A Scalable Multiplane Data Center Network.” Funding kicked off on May 15, 2016.Porter is the Co-Director of UC San Diego’s Center for Networked Systems (CNS), in addition to being a professor in the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department of the university’s Jacobs School of Engineering.NSF is committed to promoting the role of teacher-scholars, and the CAREER program is the funding agency’s most prestigious category of awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify excellence in both teaching and research.As Porter outlined in his proposal, “Supporting the ever-increasing data rates required between literally hundreds of thousands of servers is an extremely challenging problem… [and] solving this problem is critical to building and deploying compute clusters capable of meeting the exponentially growing requirements of users and developers building new applications.”He noted that industrial data center operators such as Google and Microsoft are relying on scale-out designs that are prohibitive in cost and “power-hungry”. As a result, said Porter, “inefficiencies due to network bottlenecks get magnified across hundreds of thousands of servers, resulting in huge costs.” One way around this logjam is the design of hybrid networks based on reconfigurable physical optical circuits from one part of the network to another, because such circuits would not require expensive conversion of optical signals into electric signals and then back to optical. Nor do they require transceivers or intermediate packet switches.“However, due to technological and physical limitations, for next-generation data center bandwidths, we cannot simply ‘speed up’ existing hybrid designs,” explained Porter. “We eschew the idea of designing a single network fabric that tries to both support next-generation bandwidths and scale to thousands of endpoints,” explained Porter. “Instead, we propose a composite network fabric built from multiple, entirely physically independent sub-networks… that can each sale to thousands of nodes, yet are, by themselves, not able to meet the end-to-end bandwidth demands of the data center.” To meet those bandwidth needs, he added, traffic can be rapidly switched between the sub-networks.Porter argues that using multiplane network nodes as the building blocks for end-to-end data center network topologies — instead of using conventional switching — can greatly reduce the number of switches, lower cost and power consumption, resulting in faster link rates. “A given set of sub-networks do not necessarily offer a circuit between each endpoint, meaning that some data must transit across a number of intermediate points until it reaches the ultimate destination,” noted Porter. “This indirection approach, coupled with physically separate sub-networks, is a unique aspect of our proposed systems research.”Education is a critical component of CAREER awards, and Porter says that he will translate the research of his project into new and existing courses based on hands-on projects and system-building experiences, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. For undergrads, he is planning a networking ‘maker’ course, and he’ll continue to mentor teams of students in UC San Diego’s Early Research Scholars Program (ESRP), which emphasizes underrepresented minority students and women getting involved in the research process. He also plans to create a series of videos for UCSD-TV to “provide the public and pre-college students with context for the challenges presented by powering the Internet and cloud computing, and highlighting the importance of the research in this area.”
- CNS Concludes Spring Research Review (2016)
Spring 2016 CNS Research Review! A special thank you to Alex Gantman and Peter Lee for their keynote presentations.
Thank you to Professors Steven Swanson, Hovav Shacham, George Porter and Graduate Students Tianyin Xu, Karyn Benson, Arjun Roy, Steven Hill, Ryan Huang, Tiange Wu, Zhaomo Yang and Max Mellette for your presentations on your current work. The review was a great success thanks to you!
- CSE Presence at ASPLOS 2016 Conference at Georgia Tech (2016)
The Computer Science and Engineering department was well represented at ASPLOS 2016, the 21st ACM International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems. It took place April 2-6 at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. CSE Prof. Yuanyuan (YY) Zhou is chairing the conference this year. She also chaired the Program Committee, which included fellow CSE Prof. Michael Taylor. Zhou calls ASPLOS “the premier forum for multidisciplinary systems research spanning computer architecture and hardware, programming languages and compilers, operating systems and networking, as well as applications and user interfaces.” Zhou notes that sessions dealt with performance, energy and thermal efficiency, as well as resiliency, security and sustainability, as computer scientists grapple with the explosion of big data, increasing human-centered applications, and widely varying scales from ultra-low-power wearable devices to exascale parallel and cloud computing. The program included two keynotes, a debate, and 53 papers.
- CNS Co-Director Honored for Innovation in Network Security Research (2016)
CSE Prof. Stefan Savage is the recipient of the 2015 ACM-Infosys Foundation Award in the Computing Sciences. ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, and the Infosys Foundation cited Savage for innovative research in network security, privacy and reliability that has taught cybersecurity experts to view attacks and attackers as elements of an integrated technological, societal and economic system.
Savage is also the Co-Director of the Center for Networked Systems (CNS) at UC San Diego, and his impact on the field of network security stems from the systematic approach he takes to assessing problems and combating adversaries ranging from malicious software and computer worms to distributed attacks.
The ACM-Infosys Foundation Award recognizes the finest recent innovations by young scientists and system developers in the computing field. An endowment from the Infosys Foundation provides financial support for the $175,000 annual award. ACM will present the ACM-Infosys Foundation Award at its annual awards banquet on June 11 in San Francisco.
“Keeping networks secure is an ongoing battle,” explained ACM President Alexander L. Wolf. “Coming up with a technical advancement to block an adversary is important. But, very often, the adversaries soon find new ways in. Stefan Savage has shifted thinking and prompted us to ask ourselves how we might impede the fundamental support structure of an attacker. His frameworks will continue to significantly influence network security initiatives in coming years.”
Stefan Savage is a member of the CSE department’s Systems and Networking Group in the Jacobs School of Engineering. A Sloan Fellow and ACM Fellow, he is also a past recipient of the ACM SIGOPS Mark Weiser Award, which is given annually to an individual who has demonstrated creativity and innovation in operating systems research. Savage has published more than 100 peer-reviewed journal and conference papers in the wide-ranging areas of the economics of e-crime, characterizing availability, routing protocols, and data center virtualization.
“Stefan’s work is creative and a fantastic exemplar of how computer science is solving societal problems that go beyond engineering and science into economics, government and public policy,” said CSE Chair Rajesh Gupta. “His pioneering work in cybersecurity is already having repercussions in sectors as disparate as automotive security, electronic voting, and black-market pharmaceuticals.”
“Dr. Savage has dedicated his career to analyzing, protecting, and strengthening the systems and networks that make our digital age possible. From network congestion control, worms and malware to wireless security, his work has helped advance a wide range of areas,” said Dr. Vishal Sikka, Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director of Infosys. “Dr. Savage is a true innovator, pursuing his curiosity and passion toward new frontiers in cybersecurity, and exemplifying the kind of work that the ACM-Infosys Foundation Award is proud to support.”
Savage’s unique methodology is perhaps best exemplified in his recent work to combat unsolicited electronic messages (spam). Along with his collaborators, including professors Geoffrey M. Voelker at UC San Diego and Vern Paxson at UC Berkeley, Savage designed investigations to understand how spammers make money, as well as what might be done to disrupt this fundamental incentive. In one project, he and his colleagues infiltrated a “botnet” by which spammers sent billions of emails via infected computers, and uncovered fascinating insights into the economics of spam schemes. For example, the research demonstrated that for each $100 purchase of Viagra, the spammers needed to send approximately 12,000,000 spam emails. And although this would seem to infer a poor return on investment, Savage’s team determined that the spammers’ low cost structure allowed them to extract a profit of $1.5 – $2 million per year.
Having shown that spam remained profitable in spite of existing defenses, Savage’s team then mounted a large-scale study to identify other bottlenecks in the spam business model that might be targeted more effectively. By tracking millions of spam emails and identifying the individual services required to monetize them – domain registrars, name servers, Web hosting services, payment processors and so on – they were able to construct a complete model of dependencies in the spam supply chain. Their work showed that of all these resources, the merchant bank accounts used to receive credit card payments were the most valuable and vulnerable to disruption. Based on these results, anti-counterfeiting organizations, brand holders and government agencies worked with Visa, MasterCard and their member banks to shutter these merchant accounts and put direct financial pressure on spammers.
In another study, Savage worked with his former student at UC San Diego, Tadayoshi Kohno, now a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at University of Washington, and a group of students to examine the emerging trends of computerized control and connectivity in automobiles. By seeking to analyze the security of a test automobile from many points of entry, the group found that someone without any physical access to the vehicle could exercise arbitrary control from a remote distance, including disabling the brakes, controlling the engine, tracking the vehicle, and listening to conversations among passengers. Savage and the group worked closely with manufacturers to eliminate or mitigate these vulnerabilities in millions of automobiles and also helped drive international standards bodies and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to adopt cybersecurity as a key area of responsibility.
Savage received a B.S. degree in Applied History from Carnegie Mellon University and earned a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Washington.
- YY Zhou Participates in STEM Panel at All-Girls School (2016)
CSE Prof. Yuanyuan (YY) Zhou participated on March 18 in the 2nd Annual OLP Women’s Symposium at the Academy of Our Lady of Peace in San Diego. The symposium featured prominent women leaders on multigenerational panels as they shared insights with future leaders and innovators of the world. Prof. Zhou participated on the panel of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, which included experts from industry and academia. The discussions on other panels covered a wide array of topics aimed at helping the next generation of women leaders manage the many aspects of being a woman in the workforce. Local companies led by I.E. Pacific, Inc., sponsored this year’s symposium. The Academy of Our Lady of Peace is an all-girls high school that has been “empowering and educating women since 1882”.
- Stefan Savage Addresses Auto Security Vulnerabilities at USENIX Enigma Conference (2016)
CNS Co-Director Stefan Savage is on the steering committee of USENIX Enigma, a new, three-day security conference geared towards those working in both industry and research. The inaugural conference took place this week at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, and Savage made headlines with his Jan. 26 talk on “Modern Automotive Vulnerabilities: Causes, Disclosures and Outcomes.”
In his presentation on Tuesday, Savage caught the attention of attendees when he noted that his team of researchers were able to control a vehicle by playing a song with malicious code encoded in one of the tracks. “Basically, give me 18 seconds of playtime and we can insert the attack code,” Savage told a reporter from the UK publication The Register.
Savage said that specific flaw has since been addressed, but automobiles remain vulnerable because automakers use a government-mandated OBD-II port, which opens up the car’s network. “For cars, the original equipment manufacturer is not the developer, they are the integrator, so there are software supply chain issues,” he said. “Source code is frequently not available, so code inspection does not work, since no party in the world has access to all of a car’s source code.
The Register quoted Savage as saying that the industry must “adopt automatic wireless software updates to fix problems as they are discovered.” Predicted Savage: “Every manufacturer now either has remote update or will shortly announce it. The cost of not having it is just too great.”
The only other speaker in the session on security in autos was CSE alumnus Tadayoshi Kohno (Ph.D. ’06). Savage sat on Kohno’s Ph.D. dissertation committee with two other CSE faculty, Mihir Bellare and Daniele Micciancio. Today, Kohno is a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington. Kohno’s talk focused on “Computer Security and the Internet of Things.”
A former postdoctoral researcher in CSE’s Security group from 2009 to 2011, Damon McCoy also spoke at USENIX Enigma. His topic: “Bullet-Proof Credit Card Processing.” McCoy is now a professor of computer science and engineering at New York University, where his primary research focus is on online payment systems, the economics of cybercrime. automotive systems, privacy-enhancing technologies and “censorship resistance.”
- Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship Deadline – February 16, 2016 (2016)
ALAN TURING MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP
The UC San Diego Center for Networked Systems aspires to affirm the importance of future LGBT engineers by establishing the Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship, homage to a titan in the field whose contributions were tragically cut short. A founder of the field of computer science and a brilliant mathematician, Alan Turing’s work contributed substantially to the Allied victory in World War II through his brilliant codebreaking. After the war, Turing suffered outright persecution for his activities as a gay man. He died by suicide in 1954.
The Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship was established in 2015 by the Center for Networked Systems through a philanthropic partnership. As planned, the $10,000 award will be paid in the 2015-2016 academic year.
The Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship is a $10,000 award paid in the spring quarter 2016 for undergraduate students who are majoring in computer science, electrical and computer engineering, public policy, communications and other programs touching on networked systems and who are active in supporting the LGBT community. Preference will be given to students with demonstrated financial need.
Deadline: February 16, 2016
Online Application: https://ucsd.academicworks.
If you have questions regarding the application process, please contact the UCSD Scholarship Office at email@example.com or (858) 534-1067.
- Yuanyuan “YY” Zhou Receives Prestigious Award for Operating Systems Research (2015)
Congratulations to YY Zhou for receiving the 2015 SIGOPS Marc Weiser Award!
The annual award given at the ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles recognizes individuals who have displayed outstanding creativity and innovation in their approaches to computer systems research throughout their careers. YY was recognized “for innovative and creative contributions to detecting and recovering from defects in complex computer systems.”
Full Story: JSOE News Release
- CSE PhD student – Vicky Papavasileiou to represent CNS at Grace Hopper (2015)
- Fast and Vulnerable (2015)
A recent alumnus of CSE’s BS/MS program, Ian Foster (MS ’15), gave a high-profile talk this week at the Aug. 10-11 USENIX Workshop on Offensive Technologies (WOOT 2015) in Washington, D.C., on the eve of the much larger USENIX Security conference. Foster (who is now at Salesforce), CSE Prof. Stefan Savage, Qualcomm Institute programmer-analyst Andrew Prudhomme (who worked on the project in Savage’s CSE 227 class), and CSE postdoctoral researcher Karl Koscher made international headlines with their paper, “Fast and Vulnerable: A Story of Telematic Failures.”
For the full story: http://cse.ucsd.edu/node/2851
- CSE and Facebook at SIGCOMM 2015 (2015)
A team from CSE is getting ready to attend the flagship annual conference of the ACM Special Interest Group on Data Communication on applications, technologies, architectures and protocols of computer communication. The week-long SIGCOMM 2015 takes place in London, UK, starting Aug. 17, and three CSE faculty members will attend – George Porter, Alex Snoeren and Geoffrey Voelker – as will PhD student Arjun Roy (PhD ’16) (at left). The reason? When Roy interned at Facebook, he worked on a project to measure their datacenter network. The results of the joint UC San Diego-Facebook investigation are to be published in a paper at SIGCOMM: “Inside the Social Network’s (Datacenter) Network.” Snoeren and Porter co-authored the article with grad student Roy and two colleagues from Facebook, Hongyi Zeng and Jasmeet Bagga.
See full story: http://cse.ucsd.edu/node/2845
- Pinpointing a Security Vulnerability in How Computers Use Memory (2015)
In the Workshop on Offensive Technologies (WOOT) where the paper on automotive hacking was presented (see stories above), another former member of CSE’s Security and Cryptography group had new research to present. E alumnus Stephen Checkoway (PhD ‘12) presented a paper with the eye-catching title, “Run-DMA”.
See the full story: http://cse.ucsd.edu/node/2853
- Alumnus, Postdoc Offer Way to Make Embedded Systems More Secure (2015)
CSE postdoctoral researcher Karl Koscher was the first author on another paper presented at the Workshop on Offensive Technologies, jointly with Microsoft’s David Molnar and CSE alumnus Tadayoshi Kohno (PhD ’06), who was Koscher’s advisor at the University of Washington. They presented a system called SURROGATES to emulate and instrument embedded systems in near-real time, enabling a variety of dynamic analysis techniques.
For the full story: http://cse.ucsd.edu/node/2852
- Five Years On, Car Hacking Research Still Triggering Alarms (2015)
Research dating back to 2010 in the lab of CSE Prof. Stefan Savage is still making headlines. In an article published by dozens of newspapers this week, the Associated Press reported that hackers are still able to hack automotive systems from a distance — forcing Fiat Chrysler to become the first automaker to recall cars to patch a cybersecurity problem. It recalled 1.4 million Jeeps after a Jeep in St. Louis was hacked by “white hat” hackers using a laptop in Pittsburgh.
In the AP article, CSE alumnus Yoshi Kono, who worked with Savage and continues to work on cybersecurity as a professor at the University of Washington, notes that the “adversary only needs to find one way to compromise the system, where a defender needs to protect against all ways” of hacking a car.
See full story: http://cse.ucsd.edu/node/2848
- Adjunct CSE Professor Divulges Google’s Network Strategy (2015)
This week Google partially lifted the curtain of secrecy surrounding the homegrown network architecture it built over the past decade to handle the massive amount of Internet traffic through the search giant’s servers. To divulge the details, Google selected an adjunct CSE professor to go public. Amin Vahdat, who started advising Google while he was still teaching at UC San Diego and leading the university’s Center for Networked Systems (CNS), is now a full-time Google Fellow and Technical Lead for Networking at the company, and he remains an adjunct member of the CSE faculty.
Vahdat gave a presentation at the 2015 Open Network Summit on June 17, “revealing for the first time the details of five generations of our in-house network technology,” according to Google. While Vahdat was careful about not divulging too many proprietary details, he presented a first look into Google’s data center network design and implementation, focusing on the data, control and management plane principles underpinning five generations of our network architecture.”
- CNS Launches LGBT Scholarship (2015)
To encourage a more diverse community in computer science education and research, the Center for Networked Systems (in partnership with private donors), established the Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship on June 1, 2015. The scholarship will be awarded annually to an enrolled undergraduate computer-science or computer-engineering major in UC San Diego’s Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department.
Please help support a better tomorrow by making your tax deductible gift at any amount here. Your gift can have a tremendous impact on a student’s future and on the computer science and engineering community.
Scholarship Video (YouTube)
- Work on the security of modern automobiles profiled on 60 Minutes (2015)
Postdoctoral Researcher Karl Koscher’s work on the security flaws associated with automobiles was recently featured on the TV news program, 60 Minutes. In this episode which talks in general about the security of the Internet of Things, Dr. Koscher demonstrated how he can remotely hack into an automobile and take over its operation.
To watch the episode: http://www.cbsnews.com/…/darpa-dan-kaufman-internet-securi…/
For more information about Dr Kosher’s work: http://www.autosec.org/
- YY Zhou named an IEEE Fellow (2015)
For more than a century, IEEE has conferred the distinction of Fellow upon those of its members with extraordinary accomplishments in any of the fields of endeavor that are of interest to IEEE. In November 2015, YY Zhou was named a IEEE Fellow for “contributions to scalable algorithms and tools for computer reliability.
- CNS Graduate Student Once Again Breaks World Record! (2014)
Michael Conley, a PhD student in the CSE department, once again won a data sort world record in multiple categories while competing in the annual Sort Benchmark competition. Leading a team that included Professor George Porter and Dr. Amin Vahdat, Conley employed a sorting system called Tritonsort that was designed not only to achieve record breaking speed but also to maximize system resource utilization. Tritonsort tied for the “Daytona Graysort” category and won outright in both the “Daytona” and “Indy” categories of the new “Cloudsort” competition. To underscore the effectiveness of their system resource utilization scheme as compared to the far more resource intensive methods followed by their competitors, it’s interesting to note that the 2011 iteration of Tritonsort still holds the world record for the “Daytona” and “Indy” categories of the “Joulesort” competition.
To see all the details about the competition, read here.
And to read about Tritonsort, see this article (pdf).
- PhD students Malveeka Tewari and Soohyun Nam to represent CNS at Grace Hopper (2014)
CNS is pleased to announce the winners of the CNS 2014 Grace Hopper Travel grant: PhD students Malveeka Tewari and Soohyun Nam. Both students were chosen to represent CNS at this premier event for women in computing.
- CNS welcomes newest member, CSR Technology, Inc. (2014)
CNS welcomes its newest member, CSR Technology, Inc. CSR Technology solves the challenges and delivers the core innovations that enable their customers to win in the global consumer electronics market. Their technologists create innovative and integrated platforms, helping their customers turn great ideas into market-leading products. We are looking forward to many future productive collaborations with CSR!
- kc claffy named recipient of 2014 IEEE Internet Award (2014)
The head of the CAIDA research group at the San Diego Supercomputer Center, kc claffy, was named one of the two recipients of this year’s IEEE Internet Award “for seminal contributions to the field of Internet measurement, including security and network data analysis, and for distinguished leadership in and service to the Internet community by providing open access data and tools.”
Begun in 1999, the IEEE Internet Award is given to an individual or small number of collaborators who have provided exceptional contributions to the advancement of Internet technology for network architecture, mobility, and/or end-use applications.
- Ranjit Jhala Receives “Test of Time” Award (2014)
Sometimes the best way to judge the importance of work is to view it in hindsight. An idea that might have seemed important or groundbreaking at the time of its publication can prove to be a dead end while another modest proposal that was overlooked when it first came out eventually becomes the way that things are done in its field. With this in mind, many sub-fields in computer science have taken to presenting annual “test of time” awards to work that has proven to be most influential. Every year at the ACM Symposium on Principles of Programming Languages (POPL), the program committee announces the recipient of the POPL Most Influential Paper Award. The committee goes back a decade to the POPL program and determines which of the papers published ten years prior has proven to be of the greatest contemporary value to the field.
In January 2014, the POPL committee recognized the 2004 paper, “Abstractions from Proofs,” co-authored by CNS Professor Ranjit Jhala while he was finishing up his doctoral work at UC Berkeley with his colleagues Tom Henzinger, Rupak Majumdar, and Ken McMillan. The committee explained that in this paper Jhala and his team “demonstrated a fundamental generalization of Craig interpolation to program analysis by predicate abstraction, opening the door for interpolation to be applied to abstraction refinement for ‘infinite-state’ systems.” Prior to the publication of this paper, interpolation had only been used by those researching programming languages in the model checking of “finite-state” systems. The award committee further praised how Jhala’s paper “showed how interpolation offers a fundamental way to explain abstraction refinement in a logical framework, and has led to many extensions to increase the power of abstraction in program analysis.
- Two students named recipients of the 2013 CNS Espresso Prize for Excellence in Networking (2013)
Every fall, the Computer Science and Engineering department offers the class CSE 123, Computer Networks. In this class, students are introduced to concepts, principles, and practice of computer communication networks with examples from existing architectures, protocols, and standards. Students are expected to complete a final project showing how they use the concepts they have learned to resolve some problem posed by the instructor. The prize is awarded by Professor Alex C Snoeren in two categories, one for the best undergraduate project and the other to the best graduate.
This year’s recipients are:
Undergraduate category: Jacob Maskiewicz
Graduate category: Vidya Kirupanidhi
- YY Zhou Named ACM Fellow (2013)
In December 2013, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) made its annual recognition of members from academic institutions, companies, and research labs all over the world who “have achieved advances in computing research and development that are accelerating the digital revolution and impacting every dimension of how we live, work, and play … worldwide.” Those recognized by ACM are thereafter designated to be Fellows of the Association.
CNS is proud to report that CSE Professor YY Zhou was one of 50 ACM members named Fellows in 2013 for her “contributions to software reliability and quality.”
- Stefan Savage Recognized for Innovative Approaches to Computer Systems Research (2013)
Congratulations to Stefan Savage for receiving the 2013 SIGCOPS Marc Weiser award!
The annual award given at the ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles recognizes individuals who have displayed outstanding creativity and innovation in their approaches to computer systems research throughout their careers.
- Data Center Work Published in Recent Issue of Science (2013)
CNS researchers George Porter and Yeshaiahu Fainman recently published an article in Science detailing their new design for how data centers in the future can increase the amount of traffic they handle.
Link to article. (pdf)
- NS Welcomes VMWare as its Newest Industrial Sponsor! (2013)
In September 2013, VMWare became the newest Sponsor of CNS when it elected to support the project, “Virtualization and Next-generation Storage” headed by CSE faculty member Steven Swanson.
- CNS Announces Recipients of the 2013 Grace Hopper Conference Travel Grant! (2013)
Every year, CNS provides an all expense travel grant to send students to the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. Recipients are chosen based upon their participation in CNS and on the quality of a submitted essay outlining why they wish to go.
This year, CNS was able to award three travel grants to CSE PhD students Xinxin Jin, Karyn Benson, and Natalie Larson.
The Grace Hopper conference is a premier networking and career enhancement conference for women in computing, but few students have an opportunity to attend since they usually have to pay from their own funds. Nonetheless, students are aware of its value. Xinxin Jin talked in her essay about how exposing herself to successful women in computing will help her to build confidence in her career. Karyn Benson spoke about how instrumental mentoring by a female computer scientist has been in her career and how she hopes to become a mentor to other women in turn. Finally, Natalie Larson wrote that “the conference has great potential to affect growth for me… I am in the early stages of my PhD– my second year …and while I have done many academic internships, I have never worked in an industry internship and have little experience interacting with industry leaders. Participating in the conference this year would mean a lot for me.”
- CNS Student’s Work on BitCoin Featured in Forbes magazine (2013)
Forbes magazine checks in with PhD student Sarah Meiklejohn about just how (not) private Bitcoin purchases can be.
- NSF Awards CNS $1.8 million in Support of Data Center Research! (2013)
CNS is pleased to announce that George Porter and Alex Snoeren were awarded a three year NSF NeTS Large grant for their work on hybrid circuit/packet data center designs. Though the demand to increase the scale of data centers is ever increasing, growth is currently limited by the problem of being able to provide sufficient internal network connectivity. In their project proposal, Porter and Snoeren suggest that a solution to this problem could be reached by abandoning today’s electrically packet-switched technology and adopting optical circuit switching. If they are successful, they will develop a hybrid switch that will have a capacity that is several orders of magnitude greater than an electrical packet switch and yet whose performance will be largely indistinguishable from the current technology. However, the change in technology will also necessitate a complete revolution in the way that data centers are networked.
- Remembering CNS faculty member Rene Cruz (2013)
It is with much sadness that we announce the death of Dr. Rene Cruz. A professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department and a founding member of CNS, Dr Cruz passed away on June 30 after a battle with cancer. He will be fondly remembered and all the students, staff, researchers, and faculty at CNS extend their condolences to Dr. Cruz’s family, friends, and colleagues.
- CNS Welcomes its New Associate Director (2013)
- CNS faculty Savage Interview on NPR’s Planet Money (2013)
Stefan Savage was interviewed for a piece that aired on January 11, 2013 on NPR’s Planet Money about his research on the underground spam economy. In the piece, he talks about how his team has uncovered the economic relationship between underground spammers and online pharmacies. He also answers the question that everyone has wanted to know about online pharmacies, but has been afraid to ask: are they for real?
- CNS faculty Savage, Fowler, Voelker, and Snoeren win $10 million NSF award (2012)
Computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego, the International Computer Science Institute at Berkeley and George Mason University have received a $10 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation to map out the illicit activities taking place in the cybersecurity underworld and to understand how the mind of a cybercriminal works.
“Fighting cyber threats requires more than just understanding technologies and the risks they’re associated with; it requires understanding human nature,” said Stefan Savage, a professor of computer science at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, and one of the lead researchers on the grant. “At its heart, cyber security is a human issue. It’s about conflict, and computers are merely the medium where this conflict takes place.”
Among their goals, the researchers will investigate how criminals make money, their economic and social relationships, and the various ways they interact with victims and defenders to achieve their goals. The researchers hope that by better understanding these dynamics, they will be able to identify the best opportunities for interventions and defenses against cybercrime.
Economics come to the forefront in understanding how the world of modern cybercrime works, including the motives behind the vast majority of Internet attacks, and the elaborate marketplaces that support them. Social interactions are key to understanding how venues such as Facebook and Twitter present new opportunities for attacks and manipulation, and to understanding the relationships among cybercriminals, who heavily rely upon one another for services and know-how.
Savage will work with six other UC San Diego researchers, including social scientist James Fowler, best known for his work on social contagion. The basic idea for this project is that technological security depends on the human factor, Fowler said. “I love that engineers and computer scientists are acknowledging that security depends as much on human behavior as it does on technology,” he said. “I look forward to working with them to help tackle these problems.”
The UC San Diego team is joining forces with a team of eight researchers at the UC Berkeley-affiliated International Computer Science Institute, led by Vern Paxson, a professor of computer science, and with Damon McCoy, an alumnus of the UC San Diego group and now a faculty member at George Mason University.
This effort is an extension of an ongoing collaboration in cybersecurity that the Berkeley and San Diego teams have built by working together for over a decade. In just the last year, Paxson and Savage’s team made headlines for a study that charted the complete “value chain” for email spam – the technical and economic relationships involved in making spam profitable. Researchers also identified which links in the value chain were the most vulnerable. By carefully tracking payment information across an array of test purchases, they showed that just three banks handled payments for 95 percent of spam-advertised products. This finding, what the researchers call a “choke point,” suggested that targeting the economics of spam could ultimately be more effective than only addressing its technical symptoms. Today, this approach is being tested through collaborations between financial institutions, brand holders and government agencies.
The NSF grant will fund this kind of interdisciplinary work, but with greater breadth and scale. Researchers will focus on four key areas:
The economics of E-crime: Researchers will try to get a better grasp of how cybercriminals make money in different scams. They will examine both advertising schemes, such as spam and search engine abuse, as well as theft of user data, such as financial account credentials. They will also get a better understanding of the infrastructure that cybercriminals rely on, including phishing kits, malware distribution and botnets.
The role of online social networks: Facebook and Twitter have become a new battleground in cybersecurity, where criminals exploit users’ trust to various ends. Researchers will map out the ecosystem of attackers that prey in social networks and the ways in which social manipulation is crucial to their activities. They will then try to understand the extent to which unsafe online behavior is learned and transmitted through online social networks and how these findings might be harnessed to improve online safety.
Underground social networks: Researchers will study the nature of “trust among thieves” and map out how relationships among criminals are established, maintained and evolve. Scientists will attempt to understand how cybercriminals go from being new to the field to becoming criminal masterminds. They will also try to understand how ideas are generated in the cybercrime underground; how new scams spread; and how trust is managed in building criminal relationships.
Efficacy of intervention: Finally, the researchers hope to measure the relationship between security practices and security “outcomes,” including understanding how different defenses, interventions and educational strategies actually impact the success of cyber attacks.
The other researchers from the Jacobs School of Engineering involved on the grant are computer science professors Geoffrey Voelker, Lawrence Saul and Alex Snoeren from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, as well as research scientists Kirill Levchenko and Erin Kenneally, a cyberforensics specialist at the Center for Advanced Computational Science Engineering.
The ICSI researchers led by Vern Paxson are Mark Allman, Chris Grier, Chris Hoofnagle, Dan Klein, Christian Kreibich, Deirdre Mulligan and Nicholas Weaver.
- CNS Welcomes four new faculty members! (2012)
CNS is proud to announce that we have added four new faculty members to our roster, all of whom bring to the Center an exciting perspective on the work that can be done in systems and networking research. James Fowler s Professor of Medical Genetics and Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. His work lies at the intersection of the natural and social sciences, with a focus on social networks, behavioral science, evolution, politics, genetics, and big data.
Ranjit Jhala specializes in researching problems in Programming Languages and Software Engineering, specifically focusing on techniques for building reliable computer systems. His work draws from, combines, and contributes to the areas of model checking, program analysis and automated deduction.
Sorin Lerner’s research interests lie in programming language and analysis techniques for making software systems easier to write, maintain and understand, including static program analysis, domain specific languages, compilation, formal methods and automated theorem proving.
Steven Swanson research focuses on understanding the implications of emerging technology trends on computing systems. He leads the Non-Volatile Systems Laboratory where he oversees a wide range of projects related to non-volatile memories, how computer systems can leverage them to increase performance and efficiency, and other system-level issues they raise (e.g., in security).
- Winners of 2012 Grace Hopper Travel Grant – Christine Chan and Shikha Jain! (2012)
CNS is happy to announce two winners for this year’s Grace Hopper Travel Grant contest: Christine Chan and Shikha Jain.
Christine, an ECE PhD student who works with Professor Tajana Rosing, stated in her application that she wanted to attend the Grace Hopper conference “to meet the women who have come before me, found their standing, and will continue to push innovation in our field.” Shikha, a MS student advised by Professor Alin Deutsch, acknowledged in her application the importance of women’s professional conferences and societies to her growth as a computer scientist. Shikha also expressed her confidence in women’s ability to become successful regardless of the struggles they face. “My strong belief is that every woman has the capability of excelling in her professional life while fulfilling her responsibilities towards her family and friends. All it takes is strong determination and passion for one’s profession and interests.”
The 2013 Grace Hopper Travel Grant program will solicit applications in August 2013. If you have questions, please contact Kathy Krane at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations Christine and Shikha!
- Microsoft Newest Member of CNS (2012)
In July of 2012, CNS was happy to welcome Microsoft as its newest Sponsor-level corporate member. Microsoft has long engaged CNS faculty on various levels of research collaboration, has been an active participant in CNS events, and has also been a frequent provider of summer internships and post-graduation employment to CNS masters and doctoral students. Becoming a Sponsor is just the next step in the natural evolution of a longstanding and mutually beneficial relationship.
- Google Grants CNS Researchers Two Awards (2012)
In July, Google announced that two recipients in its latest round of its prestigious Research Award Program were researchers at CNS. Research Scientist Kenneth Yocum has received support for his project “An App-Store Framework for Data Center Networks” and CSE Professor Hovav Shacham was awarded for his proposal on “Quantifying Browser Fingerprinting on the Web.”
- Initially Neglected, Work Now Seen as “Most Influential” (2012)
In February, the ACM Symposium on High-Performance Parallel and Distributed Computing (HPDC) celebrated its twentieth year by identifying twenty of the “most influential” papers published in the history of its proceedings. Among these was a paper presented in 1997 whose lead author is CSE Professor and Google Fellow Amin Vahdat, entitled “WebOS: Operating System Services for Wide Area Applications.” In the paper, Professor Vahdat and his colleagues at UC, Berkeley and UT, Austin described a service, WebOS, that provided “basic operating systems services needed to build applications that are geographically distributed, highly available, incrementally scalable, and dynamically reconfiguring.” The ideas outlined in this paper were a radical proposal for solving the then growing problem of how to provide ease of use for wide area resources. Though rejected from a number of conferences and then widely overlooked at first, the basic framework described in this paper is now commonly employed by such on-demand cloud service providers as EC2 Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s Windows Azure.
- CNS Spam Researchers Featured in Businessweek (2011)
A groundbreaking study by CNS researchers on the underground spam economy was profiled in Businessweek the week of December 12, 2012. The study, by a group headed by CNS Director Stefan Savage and consisting of researchers from CNS and UC Berkeley. The article provides a high level overview of spammers’ business model along with a number of interesting statistics about the spam economy, such as the percentage of Americans who have purchased goods and services through spam advertisements (12%) and the number of businesses (45) behind 69,002 web sites.
- YY Zhou Named ACM Distinguished Scientist (2011)
Every year, ACM recognizes those of it members whose careers show distinction. The Distinguished Member Grade recognizes those ACM members with at least 15 years of professional experience and 5 years of continuous Professional Membership who have achieved significant accomplishments or have made a significant impact on the computing field. This year, CNS faculty member YY Zhou has been named as one of 49 new Distinguished Scientist inductees.
- CNS faculty named ACM Fellows (2011)
One of the highest forms of recognition that a computer scientist can receive is to be named as an ACM Fellow. On December 8, 2011, ACM named 46 new inductees “for their achievements in computer science and information technology and for their significant contributions to the ACM.” CSE Professor and former CNS Director AmIn Vahdat was recognized for “contributions to data center scalability and management.” CSE Professor Keith Marzullo was recognized for “contributions to distributed systems and service to the computing community.”
- CNS Director Writes Security Article for NYTimes (2011)
On December 5, 2011, CNS Director Stefan Savage published an essay on entitled, “In Planning Digital Defenses, the Biggest Obstacle Is Human Ingenuity” in which he reframes the question of how security researchers must think to anticipate threats to online security to be faced in the next decade.
- Winner of Grace Hopper Travel Grant – Neha Chachra! (2011)
I am happy to announce that CSE Ph.D. student Neha Chachra has won the first annual CNS Grace Hopper Travel Grant!
In Neha’s winning essay, she stated that the Grace Hopper conference is “a great venue for showcasing my research work, finding potential collaborators, being exposed to and inspired by new ideas…” as well as being ” a great avenue to engage prospective employers… The Grace Hopper Conference is synonymous with opportunities for women in computing at all stages of their careers. It will be a great opportunity to advance my career, and a great avenue to give back to the community.”
Congratulations to Neha!
The 2012 CNS Grace Hopper Travel Grant application will open in August 2012. If you have any questions, please contact Kathryn Krane (email@example.com)
- Data-Intensive Scalable Computing Researchers Garner NSF Support (2011)
In August, CNS Research Scientist George Porter and CSE Professor Amin Vahdat were awarded a NSF grant for their proposal to study highly efficient, pipeline-oriented data-intensive scalable computing (DISC). An increasing number of common place applications such as search engines, social networking sites, and biological and scientific programs are making use of DISC to solve computing problems. However, explains Dr. Porter, “the potential benefits of deploying applications at this scale will only be possible if they can be deployed in a sustainable, efficient manner.” This project proposes to find a way to increase per-node efficiency of DISC computing. These reductions would result in the need for fewer machines and less energy usage, thereby reducing the total capital and operational costs of large installations. The possible benefit to commercial, academic, and non-profit enterprises would be considerable. In addition to these already remarkable advantages, the work would also make computing more resilient to common disk failures at significantly less cost and complexity when compared to current solutions.
- NetApp Awards Faculty Fellowship to CNS Researcher (2011)
CNS Research Scientist George Porter recently was awarded a prestigious NetApp Faculty Fellowship. This fellowship program was established by NetApp to fund innovative research on data storage and related topics that help to foster relationships between academic researchers and engineers and researchers at NetApp. Only eight to ten fellowships are given per year, with only one previous recipient (YY Zhou) being at UC San Diego. Dr. Porter will use the funds to research new ways to incorporate networked storage within highly efficient data-intensive computing environments.
- CNS Computer Scientists Claim World Data Sorting Record for Second Year (2011)
Not content to rest upon their laurels, a team of Center for Networked Systems (CNS) data center researchers broke two of their own world records set in 2010, and then succeeded in setting three more, when their system, Tritonsort-MR, sorted a terabyte (1 trillion bytes) of data in 106 minutes. The competition that they entered, the Sort Benchmark, is the large-scale data processing world’s Formula One World Championship and Daytona 500 rolled into one, and it attracts competitors from academic and industrial labs all over the world who vie to implement ever faster data center designs.
The CNS group consists of Dr. Amin Vahdat, Dr. George Porter, and Ph.D. students Alex Rasmussen and Michael Conley. Last year, they won in the “Indy” category for the “Gray” and “Minutesort” categories, racing to sort 1 TB of data as quickly as possible and as much data as possible in a single minute, respectively. The “Indy” category represents a parameter that exists only for the purpose of the competition, so that designing a system to compete here is comparable to constructing a racing vehicle that could only ever be driven on a track. But building on their successful foray in 2010, the team decided to take their game to a new level by adjusting their system to compete in the “Daytona,” or general purpose, category.
The key to the Tritonsort-MR design, says Porter, is seeking an efficient use of resources: “The whole aim of this project is to build balanced systems.” To do this, “we made some improvements on the data structures and algorithms- basically, to make it a lot more efficient in terms of sending records across the network.” The results from their new modifications in the “Daytona” general system not only were successful, but they also proved transferable to the original specialized system built to compete in the “Indy” category. Showing impressive improvements in performance, the team submitted for and won both categories in the “Gray” and “Minutesort” competitions. But beyond the achievement of speed, the efficiency of Tritonsort-MR’s design is remarkable: while the second place team used thirty-five hundred nodes to achieve their result, the Tritonsort-MR team used only fifty-two. If implemented in a real world data center, that would mean that Tritonsort-MR could allow a company to sort data more quickly while only making one-seventh of the investment in equipment, space, and energy costs for cooling and operation.
While winning in these four categories exceeded the team’s original goals from 2010, they found themselves intrigued by a new category on offer in 2011: the 100 Terabyte Joulesort competition in which teams vie to build a system that can sort the greatest number of data records while only consuming one joule of energy (for some idea of how much a joule is, it takes about a million Joules to watch TV for an hour). The introduction of this new category reflects the recognition of an increasingly dire challenge facing industry in trying to solve data intensive computing problems: energy usage. A primary reason that data centers are expensive to operate is because of the staggering scale of their energy consumption. Any design that could increase energy efficiency would have a positive and much needed impact on both the environment and on a company’s bottom line.
Though intrigued by this new opportunity, Rasmussen said that the team was skeptical at first that they could compete in Joulesort arena. “Typically when you look at systems that set records like this, they’re all built out of these incredibly energy efficient pieces.” However, the equipment typically used “you’d never see deployed in an actual data center setting” because of the considerable cost these sophisticated systems demand. The Tritonsort-MR team, on the other hand, was devoted more to the idea of making a system of direct applicability to enterprises with real-world needs and resources than to breaking a record for its own sake. This is reflected, said Rasmussen, in the type of equipment the Tritonsort-MR team employs for its system. “The stuff that we’re using is kind of commodity server stuff. We’ve got machines from HP that are a year and a half old” with multi-core processors and a Cisco Nexus 5596 switch. And as an additional challenge to the efficiency of the design, the team elected not to “do anything special as far as energy optimization is concerned.” But despite placing these limitations upon themselves, Tritonsort-MR won the Joulesort category handily. It was as if instead of building a racing vehicle the average person couldn’t afford and could only drive in special circumstances, the CNS team took a standard four door sedan and made it both remarkably fuel-efficient and the fastest car in the world.
Medals recognizing their accomplishments were awarded by the Sort Benchmark committee at the 2011 ACM SIGMOD conference.
The Tritonsort-MR team would like to acknowledge the support of CNS member company Cisco Systems, Inc. and the National Science Foundation.
- Team’s Study of the Spam Economy Garners National Attention (2011)
A team led by CNS researchers recently authored a paper wherein they devised a methodology for the empirical study and analysis of the end-to-end resource dependencies that support the spam economy, from advertising to click through to payment and fulfillment. Having profiled the infrastructure, the researchers then analyzed it for potential weaknesses and evaluated possible interventions for their effectiveness and for the breadth of their impact. It is the least studied and understood portion of the spam pipeline, the financial segment, which appears to be the most vulnerable to defense against the entire system.
- Researchers Expose Possible Vulnerabilities in the Next Generation of Networked Automobiles (2011)
On Friday, March 4, 2011 a networking security research team led by Professor Stefan Savage delivered a report to the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board that described vulnerabilities in the wirelessly networked systems of many vehicles currently on the market. These potential weaknesses could be exploited by hackers to gain access to many of the vehicle’s basic systems such as the engine, locks, and braking system.
- CNS Researchers Break Data Sort World Record (2010)
In spring 2010, a CNS research team using switches donated by member
company Cisco built TritonSort, a data sorting system designed for a
single purpose: breaking a world record. The team consisted of CSE
Professor Amin Vahdat, Assistant Research Scientist George Porter,
post-doctoral researcher Harsha Madhyastha, Researcher Alex Pucher, and
CSE PhD students Alex Rasmussen, Radhika Niranjan Mysore, and Michael
Conley. Research teams from all over the world annually vie to claim the
top position in the competition they entered, the Sort Benchmark, which
measures the performance of systems that execute very large data sorts.
After months of hard work, the group surpassed their original ambitions
by claiming the world data sorting record in one category while tying
for the record in another.
- CNS Researchers Identify Potential Network Security Risks of Modern Automobiles (2010)
Automobiles that have systems controlled or managed by internally and externally networked computer systems are reaching near ubiquity in the United States. Computers in the form of self-contained embedded systems have been integrated into virtually every aspect of a car’s functioning and diagnostics, including the throttle, transmission, brakes, speedometer, climate and lighting controls, external lights, and entertainment. But are these systems secure? It wasn’t until a research team that is led by CNS Interim Director Stefan Savage performed an assessment of the security risks of modern automotive computer systems that this question had been comprehensively evaluated. In a peer-reviewed paper presented at IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy in Oakland, CA on May 19, 2010 entitled, “Experimental Security Analysis of a Modern Automobile” Professor Savage and his team, which includes CNS faculty member Hovav Shacham, draw attention to potential security issues that can only become more serious as computerized control of and wireless connectivity with automotive systems increases. In addition to presenting their work in an esteemed academic forum, their work was also highlighted in a recent New York Times article, “Cars’ Computer Systems Called at Risk to Hackers.”
- Experimental Security Analysis of a Modern Automobile. K. Koscher, A. Czeskis, F. Roesner, S. Patel, T. Kohno, S. Checkoway, D. McCoy, B. Kantor, D. Anderson, H. Shacham, S. Savage. The IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, Oakland, CA, May 16-19, 2010
- FAQ about the research paper “Experimental Security Analysis of a Modern Automobile”
- New York Times article, “Cars’ Computer Systems Called at Risk to Hackers.”
- Center for Automotive Embedded Systems Security
- Professor Stefan Savage Named CNS Interim Director (2010)
Professor Stefan Savage, a member of the Computer Science and Engineering department faculty has been appointed as CNS Interim Director while current Director, Professor Amin Vahdat, takes a year of sabbatical leave. Professor Savage has been serving as CNS Associate Director since 2009.
- CNS Welcomes Newest Member Ericcson (2010)
On March 4, at a signing ceremony co-sponsored by Calit2, the Center for Networked Systems (CNS), and the Center for Wireless Communications (CWC), Ericsson became the newest member of the Center for Networked Systems. The ceremony was attended by CNS faculty, Ericsson representatives, Calit2 and CWC researchers, and was presided over by the Dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering, Frieder Seible.
The signing ceremony was followed by a talk by Håkan Eriksson, entitled “Ericsson in Silicon Valley: Merging Mobile Broadband and the Internet.”
Ericsson is a world-leading provider of telecommunications equipment and related services to
mobile and fixed network operators globally. Their dedication to research and development as well as their ongoing commitment to technology leadership in the area of systems and networking makes them an exciting new partner for CNS.
- Making MuSyC: CNS Scientists Explore Energy Efficiency in Multi-Scale Computing Systems (2009)
CSE Faculty Rajesh Gupta, Tajana Rosing and Amin Vahdat are part of MuSyc, a group including faculty from UCSD and nine other universities are members of a new research center charged with finding ways to improve the design of computing systems ranging from large data centers to tiny brain sensors. In its first three years, the Multi-Scale Systems Center (MuSyC) will focus on tackling a critical issue affecting multiple scales: energy efficiency.
MuSyC is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and industry members of the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC). Its kickoff meeting was held in mid-November.
According to the new research center, its multi-scale approach stems from recognition that “a new generation of applications is emerging that are destined to run in distributed form on a platform that meshes high-performance compute clusters with broad classes of mobiles, surrounded in turn by even larger swarms of sensors. The broad majority of these new applications can be classified as distributed sense and control systems that go substantially beyond the ‘compute’ or ‘communicate’ functions traditionally associated with information technology.”
- Stefan Savage Appointed Associate Director of CNS (2009)
Center for Networked Systems is excited to announce the appointment of Professor Stefan Savage as Associate Director of the CNS. His research includes the study of high-availability Internet systems, intelligent network traffic analysis and efficient self-configuring wireless networks. Stefan joined the Jacobs School Computer Science and Engineering faculty in January 2001 and has been central to much of the activity in CNS.
- CNS Director Receives Engineering Leadership Award (2009)
Amin Vahdat, Director of CNS and Professor in the department of Computer Science and Engineering, has been awarded the Gordon Engineering Leadership Center’s Gordon Fellows Medal “in recognition of technology innovations in architecture typology, systems and networking and leadership in industry-academic partnership through the UCSD Center for Networked Systems.”
The Gordon Center was established in January 2009 with the mission of educating and training effective engineering leaders who create new products and jobs that benefit society. In order to provide positive role models for students of engineering, the Gordon Center holds an annual awards ceremony to recognize exemplary engineers at the high school, undergraduate, graduate, and professional level. Recipients of the Gordon Fellows Medal not only must be outstanding engineers within their respective fields but must also have a proven record of leadership successes.
To learn more about the Gordon Center’s mission and goals, please click here.
- CNS Alumni Receives National Science Foundation Award (2009)
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a five-year grant for $400,000 to CNS Alumni Jeannie Albrecht for research on managing distributed applications on mobile computing platforms composed of cell phones, vehicles, and embedded sensors. Albrecht earned her Ph. D. from UCSD in 2007, studying under Amin Vahdat and Alex Snoeren. She is currently an assistant professor of computer science at Williams College. Albrecht will direct the project, which is funded as a part of the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program, one of the most prestigious awards the NSF grants to young scholars that effectively integrate research into their teaching.
- CNS Welcomes Yuanyuan Zhou, Qualcomm Endowed Chair in Mobile Computing (2009)
CNS is excited to welcome Yuanyuan Zhou. She joins the Center for Networked Systems as the first holder of the Jacobs School’s Qualcomm Endowed Chair in Mobile Computing. Zhou works in one of the most important areas of computer science: making software systems more reliable. Her research covers three distinct sub-disciplines: computer systems, programming languages/software engineering, and computer architecture. Related to the challenge of making software systems more reliable, Zhou pioneered new techniques for tolerating certain errors in programmer code, rather than the currently impractical goal of eradicating all errors. Zhou brings a software engineering and systems focus to her computer architecture research. Some of her recent architecture work has focused on the difficult problem of identifying potential concurrency-related bugs.
- Millionths of a Second Can Cost Millions of Dollars: A New Way to Track Network Delays (2009)
Computer scientists have developed an inexpensive solution for diagnosing delays in data center networks as short as tens of millionths of seconds—delays that can lead to multi-million dollar losses for investment banks running automatic stock trading systems. Similar delays can delay parallel processing in high performance cluster computing applications run by Fortune 500 companies and universities.
This work highlights a fundamental shift happening across the Internet. As computer programs—rather than humans—increasingly respond to streams of information moving across computer networks in real time, millionths of seconds matter. Algorithmic stock trading systems are just one example. Extra microseconds of delay can also mean slower response times across clustered-computing platforms, which can slow down computation-intensive research, such as drug discovery projects.
Computer scientists from University of California, San Diego (George Varghese, Alex Snoeren, and Kirill Levchenko) and Purdue University (Ramana Kompella) presented this work on August 20, 2009 at SIGCOMM, the premier networking conference.
- Computer Scientists Scale Layer 2 Center Networks to 100,000 Ports and Beyond (2009)
University of California, San Diego computer scientists have created software that they hope will lead to data centers that logically function as single, plug-and-play networks that will scale to today’s massive data center networks. The software system—PortLand—is a fault-tolerant, layer 2 data center network fabric capable of scaling to 100,000 nodes and beyond.
PortLand is fully compatible with existing hardware and routing protocols and holds promise for supporting large-scale, data center networks by increasing inherent scalability, providing baseline support for virtual machines and migration, and dramatically reducing administrative overhead. Critically, it removes the reliance on a single spanning tree, natively leveraging multipath routing and improving fault tolerance.
The computer scientists (Radhika Niranjan Mysore, Andreas Pamboris, Nathan Farrington, Nelson Huang, Pardis Miri, Sivasankar Radhakrishnan, Vikram Subramanya, and Amin Vahdat) reported this advance in data center networking on August 18, 2009 at SIGCOMM, the premier computer networking conference.
- Two CNS Faculty Receive HP Labs Innovation Research Awards (2009)
Two computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego’s Center for Networked Systems (CNS) are among 60 professors worldwide to receive awards as part of HP’s 2009 Innovation Research Program, which is designed to create opportunities for colleges, universities and research institutes around the world to conduct breakthrough collaborative research with HP. Amin Vahdat and Geoffrey Voelker, professors in UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering, were granted awards as part of this year’s competitive open call for proposals.
- CNS Faculty Researcher Rene Cruz Receives IEEE 2009 INFOCOM Achievement Award (2009)
Professor Rene Cruz is the recipient of the 2009 INFOCOM achievement award from the IEEE Communication Society. This prestigious award recognizes Prof. Cruz` contributions in the area of communication networks. The award was announced at the 2009 IEEE INFOCOM Conference, the IEEE flagship conference which addresses key topics and issues related to computer communications, with emphasis on traffic management and protocols for both wired and wireless networks.
- CNS Faculty Researcher Alex Snoeren Honored with Sloan Fellowship (2009)
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has recognized CSE’s Alex Snoeren with a prestigious research Fellowship! The distinction is one of 116 given annually to young U.S. and Canadian faculty who show “the most outstanding promise of making fundamental contributions to new knowledge.” Snoeren is a member of CSE’s systems group and received the award for his ground-breaking work on Decongestion Control, Secure and Policy-Compliant Source Routing, and Cloud Control with Distributed Rate Limiting.
- CNS Hosts Successful Winter 2009 Research Review, January 14 – 15, 2009 (2009)
Faculty, graduate student researchers, and more than 40 representatives of CNS member companies participated in the CNS Winter Research Review held January 14 and 15. The event featured summary reports of CNS-sponsored research projects, a lively student poster session, and several talks by industry representatives, including a keynote speech on cloud computing by the Chief Technology Officer of Amazon, Werner Vogels. Click here for the full news article.
- Distinguished Lecture Series, Brad Calder from Microsoft (2008)
Brad Calder, Director of Engineering and Architect of “Windows Azure Storage” returned to CNS as a distinguished lecturer. Click here for the powerpoint of his lecture.
- “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” Game Provides Clue to Efficiency of Complex Networks (2008)
“CNS professor Kim Claffy, along with UCSD researchers Marián Boguñá and Dmitri Krioukov reveal a previously unknown mathematical model called “hidden metric space” that may explain the “small-world phenomenon” and its relationship to both man-made and natural networks such as human language, as well as gene regulation or neural networks that connect neurons to organs and muscles within our bodies. They have done this through the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” Click here for the full news article.
- CNS WELCOMES NEWEST MEMBER MOTOROLA, INC. (2008)
In September, 2008 Motorola, Inc. became the newest member of CNS. Motorola is a leader in global communications and is devoted to developing communications solutions with a focus on connectedness and mobility for individuals, governments, and businesses. This dedication to investment in research and to the development of networking and mobile device innovation makes Motorola a natural fit for the mission of CNS.
Dr. Hamid Ahmadi, Corporate Vice President, Senior Fellow and Chief Architect, Motorola Technology, explained that Motorola joined the Center because, “UCSD’s Center for Networking Systems’ (CNS) broad research portfolio and diverse faculty expertise complements Motorola’s research vision of converged computing, content and connectivity to deliver multimedia and information product and service solutions to our customers.
- CNS DIRECTOR NAMED SAIC CHAIR (2008)
Congratulations to Amin Vahdat, Director of the Center for Networked Systems (CNS) and professor of UCSD’s Computer Science and Engineering Department (CSE). Dr. Vahdat has recently been named Chair of the Science Applications International Corporation’s (SAIC) Computer Science and Engineering Division.
- SDSC’S INTERNET UNIVERSE IMAGE ON DISPLAY (2008)
UCSD’s San Diego Supercomputer Center has created a visual depiction of momentary global internet activity, to be displayed as a special exhibit at the New York Museum of Modern Art this month. Center researchers, Young Hyun and Bradley Huffaker, have created the image, which will be featured in the “Design and the Elastic Mind” exhibit at the museum. Click here for the full news article.
- Trouble Shooting Wi-Fi (2007)
Stefan Savage explores the issue of trouble shooting wireless Wi-Fi problems and discusses the automated system he helped to develop regarding this pertinent issue. Dr. Savage presented his research findings at the ACM SIGCOMM Conference, which was held in Kyoto, Japan in late August. Click here for the full news article.
- COMPUTER SCIENTISTS UNCOVER FACTS ON INTERNET SCAMS (2007)
Geoff Voelker and Stefan Savage discuss the differences in infrastructure utilized in distributing spam and hosting online scams. According to their research , most email scams are hosted by an individual Web server. Taking a novel approach, these researchers utilized a spam feed method to check spam embedded in suspect URLs to host servers. Their findings were presented in a paper, which has been accepted for publication at the 2007 USENIX Security Conference. A full press release is available here.
- CNS SUMMER RESEARCH REVIEW (2007)
The recent CNS research review was a success. The review was held at UCSD’s Computer Science & Engineering building and attended by sponsors and affiliated companies. To access presentations and related information, please log on to “MEMBERS ONLY” section.
- “CALIT2 AND UCSD ANNOUNCE SUPPORT FOR NEW WIRELESS RESEARCH PROJECTS” (2007)
The California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology has allocated over $1 million in funding to support four wireless research projects involving wireless communications technology over the span of the next three years. The research endeavor is part of a collaborative effort with Ericsson. The full press release is available here.
- ERICSSON FUNDS TWO CNS RESEARCHERS (2007)
Geoff Voelker and Rene Cruz have been named Jacobs School Ericsson Distinguished Scholars. Each award from Ericsson includes $25,000 per year for five years to support teaching, research, and service activities. This award is a part of Ericsson’s long-term engagement with the UCSD division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). Voelker and Cruz are co-PIs on a research project titled “Adaptive Systems,” which seeks to ensure an always-on connectivity environment, regardless of location or competing wireless standards deployed in a given space. The full press release is available here.
- A REINVENTED INTERNET (2007)
Alex Snoeren and Bill Lin presented their research on a possible Internet of the future at CNS’ January Research Review. Arguing against the Internet’s standard Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), they instead envision a radically remade internet where, even if some packets are dropped, all the information makes it from sender to receiver. This would be done via “erasure coding,” where portions of information are duplicated on multiple packets. You can read an overview of the research review, as well as more information about Snoeren’s and Lin’s research, here.
- JACOBS SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING RESEARCH EXPO (2007)
Titled “Igniting Innovation,” the annual expo showcased new student research from UCSD’s five engineering departments. It featured a poster session, technical breakout sessions, and remarks by Alan Eustace, VP of Research and Systems Engineering at Google.
- CNS WINTER RESEARCH REVIEW (2007)
UCSD hosted the CNS winter research review. Representatives from affiliated companies may also log in through the “MEMBERS ONLY” link at the left to access materials from the review.
- CNS RESEARCH REVIEW (2006)
The 2006 summer research review was a success! With 59 people from industry and UCSD, CNS hosted its largest review to date. Representatives from affiliated companies may also log in through the “MEMBERS ONLY” link at the left to access materials from the review.
- ALIN DEUTSCH RECEIVES SLOAN FELLOWSHIP (2006)
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has recognized Alin Deutsch with a prestigious research Fellowship! Deutsch’s current CNS research focuses on developing a Grid-based processor for XQuery, the World Wide Web Consoritum’s standard XML query language. You can read the full article here.
- CNS RESEARCH REVIEW (2006)
CNS hosted member company researchers to review current projects and discuss new research. The review also included a student poster session and a tour of the newly opened Calit2 building.
- CNS RESEARCHER DEVELOPS NEW WIRELESS TECHNOLOGY (2006)
Rene Cruz is creating a new wireless system that will enable DSL and cable modem subscribers to share their Internet connections. Mushroom Networks, Inc, founded by Dr. Cruz, is developing an access point aggregator (similar to a Wi-Fi router) that will connect homes or businesses that reside in close proximity. The complete article can be found here.
- CNS NAMES NEW DIRECTOR (2005)
Amin Vahdat has been named the new director of the Center for Networked Systems. Vahdat is a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, and the second director of CNS since it was established in July 2004. Vahdat takes the reins from founding director Andrew Chien, who left to join Intel Corporation as Director of Research. The full press release is available here.
- CNS RESEARCH REVIEW (2005)
CNS hosted member company researchers to review seven current projects, and to discuss and initiate innovative new projects in Networked Systems.
- FACULTY MEMBERS BRIEF INDUSTRY PARTNERS AT CNS RESEARCH REVIEW (2005)
UCSD’s Center for Networked Systems (CNS) held its first formal research review since the center’s launch last July. On Jan. 19 and 20, faculty researchers updated delegates from CNS’s five industry members on the status of the center’s seven inaugural projects, and laid the groundwork for a new round of projects as well as the center’s first summer research program that will send UCSD students to work in the labs of members AT&T, Alcatel, Hewlett Packard, QUALCOMM, and Sun Microsystems.
Link to full press release.
- ACM ELECTS CENTER FOR NETWORKED SYSTEMS DIRECTOR ANDREW CHIEN AS ACM FELLOW (2004)
Chien is one of 20 computer scientists newly elected as a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, the scientific and professional society for computer science and information technology. Chien was cited for his “contributions to high-performance computing systems,” and is the only new Fellow from a California academic institution.
- NSF AWARDS MAJOR CYBERSECURITY GRANT TO CNS RESEARCHERS (2004)
The award to understand “Internet Epidemiology” in alliance with researchers the International Computer Science Institute. More…
- UCSD LAUNCHES UNIVERSITY-INDUSTRY RESEARCH ALLIANCE TO ADDRESS CHALLENGES TO FUTURE SHARED NETWORKED SYSTEM INFRASTRUCTURES (2004)
Founding Members include AT&T, Alcatel, Hewlett-Packard and QUALCOMM
San Diego, CA, July 23, 2004 – The University of California , San Diego and four international technology leaders have committed approximately $9 million over three years to the Center for Networked Systems (CNS), a new university-industry alliance focused on developing technologies for robust, secure, and open networked systems. The founding members include AT&T, Alcatel, Hewlett-Packard and QUALCOMM Incorporated, spanning a range of technology areas including enterprise computing, networking equipment, and network operations. The contributions leverage more than $10 million in related research activities already underway at UCSD. CNS is a part of the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering and the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology [ Cal- (IT) 2], a partnership of UCSD and UC Irvine.
“Networks and systems have converged, becoming complex systems in their own right. CNS is the first of its kind devoted specifically to understanding the contribution of networks, pervasive computing and grids as systems,” said CNS founding director Andrew Chien, who is the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) professor in Computer Science and Engineering at the Jacobs School. “CNS will also blaze a new trail in its alliance with member companies, which will work closely with our faculty to address the most important obstacles to large, networked systems in both the consumer and enterprise arenas. We believe that some of these obstacles can only be removed through the deep, shared insights of industry and academic researchers.”
Above and beyond their financial contributions, corporate members will inform Center research priorities, monitor breaking research developments, provide research internships, and send researchers to visit UCSD. “Through this collaborative effort, AT&T will be teaming with some of the world’s most talented people on a common goal and sharing its unparalleled networking expertise as a catalyst for faster innovation throughout the industry,” said Hossein Eslambolchi, president of AT&T Global Networking Technology Services and a key architect in founding the Center for Networked Systems at UCSD. “As more research is done in the university environment in partnership with scientists and engineers from different industry disciplines, their combined efforts will achieve greater results than industry or university researchers working independently.”
“Tomorrow’s networked system infrastructures will be multi-technology, multi-vendor, and multi-operator environments,” said Jacobs School Dean Frieder Seible, host of the CNS launch ceremony. “The university recognizes that the only way to meet the challenge of designing these open, shared infrastructures is a focused, collaborative and multi-disciplinary approach with industry.”
CNS builds on UCSD’s established reputation in networking, systems and distributed systems, including grids, large-scale and high-speed measurement, and monitoring of worms and denial-of-service attacks. A critical mass of 16 leading faculty and research scientists from UCSD’s departments of Computer Science and Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, the San Diego Supercomputer Center, Cal-(IT) 2 and the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA) are participating in the Center. CNS researchers will undertake fundamental and long-term research on key challenges to the success of networked systems: robustness; system and application security; manageability; and application/end-user quality of service.
“The emergence of grid computing and pervasive connectivity has given rise to complex open, dynamic systems of global reach,” said Larry Smarr, Cal-(IT) 2 director and the Harry E. Gruber Professor of Computer Science and Information Technologies in the Jacobs School. “Understanding the behavior of these networks as interdependent systems requires sophisticated online and offline measurement and analysis, as well as modeling and experimentation in which CNS will excel."
CNS expects to commit funding immediately to half a dozen projects, to be selected together with its industry members. Each project will attack a critical technical problem or framework, and each team will include a mix of experts from distributed systems, networking, and network elements. The first batch of multi-year projects is expected to cover topics ranging from large-scale network modeling and network security measurement, to the development of new routing architectures that take advantage of optical technologies in new ways.
"Cooperative efforts among industry and academia, such as UCSD’s Center for Network Systems, are the cornerstone of developing breakthrough technologies. QUALCOMM is proud to partner with CNS to further research on robust, secure and manageable networks. These developments are crucial to the future growth of wireless technologies." Roberto Padovani, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, QUALCOMM
“Collaborations between academia and industry foster an environment of innovation and understanding, and nowhere is that combination more important than in the development of open, secure network systems. The future of technologies such as grid computing and advanced network systems are key elements to our business, and HP is pleased to be a founding member of the CNS program and to be able to contribute to the creation of open networked systems.” Patrick Scaglia, VP and Director, Internet Computing Platforms Research Center, HP Labs
“As communications and computing collide to create a new world of public networks, technology leadership is something no one company can achieve in isolation. Alcatel works with research leaders throughout the industry and academia to drive the engineering and technical breakthroughs that will spawn the next round of productivity and lifestyle change. We are excited about the breakthroughs this particular group can generate, and we have committed some of our top contributors to ensure the collaboration is genuinely effective.” Mike Quigley, Senior Executive Vice President, Alcatel“
“This new center underscores our belief that to address major problems, computer scientists must collaborate with researchers from other disciplines. We are delighted that AT&T, Alcatel, Hewlett-Packard and QUALCOMM also see the value in this approach to engineering breakthroughs in networked systems.” Mohan Paturi, Chair, Computer Science and Engineering, UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering
“This is an exciting new venture on the leading edge of industry-academic partnership in co-invention and collaboration. We foresee substantial benefits to society from the Center’s research on these secure networked systems that will underpin tomorrow’s information economy.” Paul Yu, Chair, Electrical and Computer Engineering, UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering
"This new center will benefit from the strong leadership of Dr. Chien and the Jacobs School faculty as well as close engagement between academia and industrial partners. Networking researchers at the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and in particular the CAIDA group, plan to work closely with CNS to achieve new breakthroughs and develop new practices in networked systems." Francine Berman, Director, San Diego Supercomputer Center
UCSD Center for Networked Systems
Jacobs School of Engineering
California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology
San Diego Supercomputer Center
Media Contact: Doug Ramsey, (858) 822-5825 or cell (619) 379-2912, firstname.lastname@example.org
- CSE Faculty Front and Center in New UC San Diego-IBM Artificial Intelligence Center (2017)