faculty research

"Information Security War Room" at USENIX Security

Sergey Bratus and Felix 'FX' Lindner delivered a joint invited talk at this year's USENIX Security Conference. This premier conference brings together attendees from academia, industry, and government.

The talk entitled "Information Security War Room" examined the state of IT security, the implications of the ongoing computer insecurity epidemic for national security and "cyberwarfare", the current misguided attempts of various governments to regulate research into computer attacks, and the strategic options the computer security community has left to revert the current trend of ubiquitous insecurity, and to make practical progress towards computers we could finally trust.

The talk received considerable attention; slides posted online got over 30,000 download requests to date.

Felix and Sergey also co-chaired the 8th USENIX Workshop on Offensive Technologies, at which a range of research projects was presented, from the Internet routing backbone and US highway traffic control infrastructure to security concerns in mobile phones and embedded devices such as computer mice, thumb drives, and other peripheral devices.

CS students phone in their feelings

Much of the stress and strain of student life remains hidden. The StudentLife study led by Professor Andrew Campbell built a smartphone sensing app that 48 computer science students used over 10 weeks of the spring term 2013. It revealed a number of interesting findings.  Researchers found that objective sensing data from the students' phones significantly correlated with academic performance and mental-health, such as, grades, GPA, stress, loneliness, depression and flourishing.

The study captured behavioral trends across the Dartmouth term. For example, students returned from spring break feeling good about themselves, relaxed (i.e., low stress levels), sleeping well and going to the gym regularly. That all changed once the Dartmouth term picked up speed toward midterm and finals, as shown in the plot.

Prof Sean Smith receives best paper of 2014 award

In their recently published 2014 Yearbook, the International Medical Informatics Association named Prof Sean Smith's Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association paper one of the best papers of 2014.  In that paper (http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~sws/pubs/sk13.pdf), Sean and Prof Ross Koppel (https://sociology.sas.upenn.edu/r_koppel)  of Penn built a taxonomy of usability problems in health IT.

Lorenzo Torresani wins the Google Faculty Research Award

Our own Lorenzo Torresani has won the Google Faculty Research Award. Dr. Torresani aims to use deep learning (i.e., learning of deep networks) to discover compact representations of video that work well for classifying human pose dynamics.

Dr. Torresani proposed to learn semantic primitives to represent human actions in video. The primitives are learned by training deep convolutional neural networks to classify different human pose dynamics. Such learned representation promises to significantly improve the accuracy of video understanding applications, including action recognition, semantic segmentation of video, as well as search and retrieval.

The technical novelty of the approach is twofold:

Prof. Bratus Tackles Ubiquitous Internet Insecurity

Dartmouth’s Sergey Bratus is on a mission to protect the Internet from cyber attacks and other criminal enterprises. It’s a big job.

Among his concerns about what he calls the “ubiquitous Internet insecurity” are credit card and identity theft and other misuses of the information highway. “We also hear reports of Internet infringement by repressive regimes targeting computers and smartphones of dissidents and protesters across the world,” says Bratus, a research assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science.

Read full Dartmouth Now article

Dartmouth IT Security Institute Gets New Leadership

Office of Public Affairs

Professor of Computer Science Sean Smith is assuming the leadership of Dartmouth’s Institute for Security, Technology, and Society (ISTS). The institute is dedicated to pursuing research and education to advance information security and privacy throughout society.

The torch has been passed to him by Denise Anthony, associate professor of sociology and director of ISTS since 2008. “I can move on from my position as director knowing that it is in Sean’s capable hands,” says Anthony. “Sean is a leading thinker in computer security and privacy research, and he is also an excellent teacher and collaborator who embodies the mission of ISTS.”

Anthony is embarking on a nine-month sabbatical and will continue to be involved in collaborative research projects through ISTS focused on privacy and healthcare IT as well as efforts to promote STEM education and career opportunities for women and minorities.

Algorithm: A Ninth-Century Term for 21st-Century Computing

Joseph Blumberg

Computer scientist Thomas Cormen still remembers that he “only got an A minus” in his algorithms course at Princeton. This minor blemish on his academic record didn’t stop Cormen, a New Yorker, from graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. Curiously, it turns out that much of his professional life has revolved around the science of algorithms.

Whether we know it or not, our lives revolve around algorithms. Much of what we do today depends on computers, and algorithms are the step-by-step sets of instructions a computer must follow in order to do its job.

“Algorithms are at the core of all things digital,” says Cormen, a professor and chair of Dartmouth’s Department of Computer Science. “They run on your laptop, your smartphone, your GPS device, and in systems imbedded in your car, your microwave oven—everywhere.”

Safeguarding Medical Information in Cyberspace (VPR)

Private medical records have moved from filing cabinets to cyberspace, raising concerns about the privacy and security of personal health and medical information systems found in mobile devices or cloud-based services, notes VPR.

As the story points out, research led by Dartmouth’s David Kotz, associate dean of the faculty for the sciences and the Champion International Professor in the Department of Computer Science, will look for ways to safeguard health and medical records.

“Now with these mobile technologies, people can use these computing devices pretty much anywhere, so that means that we are collecting information from more parts of your life, from more places in your life than you might have been comfortable having collected,” Kotz tells VPR. “So it raises a whole lot of privacy issues that we would certainly like to ameliorate.”

The research is funded by a $10-million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation, VPR reports.

Listen to the full story, broadcast 8/23/13 on VPR.

Software That Exposes Faked Photos (The New York Times)

New software developed by Dartmouth’s Hany Farid and his colleagues can determine whether a photo is fake—or has been altered—by analyzing shadows that cannot be seen by the naked eye, reports The New York Times.

The software, says Farid, may be helpful in the field of photo forensics, which the Times points out is increasingly important in the age of Photoshop and other image-manipulation software.

The software is able to analyze an image in ways the naked eye cannot, notes the Times. “Perceptual studies show that the brain is largely insensitive to gross inconsistencies in shadows,” Farid, a professor of computer science, tells the newspaper. “That means that an analyst may not be very good at determining whether shadows are real or not. But more importantly, it means a forger may not notice when he or she places an incorrect shadow on an image.”

Read the full story, published 8/19/13 by The New York Times.

Dartmouth-Led Team Receives NSF Health Care Cybersecurity Grant

Joseph Blumberg

Dartmouth has been awarded a $10-million, five-year grant from the Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support research into ways of safeguarding  the confidentiality of personal health and medical information as these records make the transition from paper files to electronic systems.

David Kotz, Dartmouth’s associate dean of the faculty for the sciences and the Champion International Professor in the Department of Computer Science, will lead an interdisciplinary and multi-institution project team which includes experts in computer science, business, behavioral health, health policy, and health care information technology.

“This project tackles many of the fundamental computer science research challenges to providing trustworthy information systems for health and wellness, as sensitive information and health-related tasks are increasingly pushed into mobile devices and cloud-based services,” Kotz says.

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