Information Trust Institute block of abstract images
Information Trust Institute block of abstract images

Illinois students make strong showing in cyber security competitions

Two teams with CS @ ILLINOIS members received recognition at the 11th annual New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering Cyber Security Awareness Week (CSAW). The event brought to Brooklyn hundreds of student finalists from across the United States, Canada, and beyond, from November 12 to15, to test their skills in hacking, protection, and detection. In yet other CSAW competitions, some of the world’s best young researchers presented their work; others designed government policy to protect the emerging Internet of Things—interconnected electronic devices found in more and more homes and offices.

First place in the 2014 CSAW Policy Competition: Whitney Merrill (right) and Nick Ciaglia (center), here with Ellen Nadeau, Cyber Policy Strategist at National Institute of Standards and Technology.
First place in the 2014 CSAW Policy Competition: Whitney Merrill (right) and Nick Ciaglia (center), here with Ellen Nadeau, Cyber Policy Strategist at National Institute of Standards and Technology.
In the inaugural CSAW Policy Competition teams developed and presented research on the best policy to implement to protect not only the currently interconnected electronic devices that comprise the Internet of Things, but devices that have not yet been invented. In this challenge, team [REDACTED], made up of CS grad students Whitney Merrill and Nick Ciaglia won first place in this competition. Merrill and Ciaglia are both students in the Information Trust Institute's Illinois Cyber Security Scholars Program, where graduate and undergraduate computer science, computer engineering and law students study cybersecurity and prepare for careers defending against cyber crime.

Additionally, CS graduate student Muhammad Naveed and his teammate Xiaoyong Zhou, a graduate student from Indiana University, received third place in the Applied Research Challenge. For this challenge, students needed to have published in a top-level scientific journal or peer-reviewed conference. Ten researchers were selected for the finals, where they presented their work to a blue-ribbon panel of judges. Naveed and Zhou’s paper (authors also include Indiana University students Yeonjoon Lee and Nan Zhang, and Indiana University professor XiaoFeng Wang) was titled “The Peril of Fragmentation: Security Hazards in Android Device Driver Customizations” and described their tool ADDICTED, which was designed to automatically detect critical security flaws in Android Devices due to driver customizations. The vulnerabilities were reported to Google and Samsung. As a token of appreciation, Samsung awarded the authors with the latest Samsung devices for future research. More information, including videos is available online.

CSAW also featured conferences and workshops for students and professionals addressed cutting-edge threats and offered pragmatic solutions. Yahoo Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos offered the young people career advice and outlined some of the most pressing ethical issues in privacy and security, telling students that they are living in a unique moment, when specialized engineers impact history as moral actors: “Your personal decisions will have an effect on hundreds, thousands, or even billions of people,” Stamos told the students in the keynote address.

CSAW was founded by Professor Nasir Memon, chair of the NYU School of Engineering Computer Science and Engineering Department, along with his students. Students continue to run the competitions, working with professionals and academics to ensure that the challenges are relevant and engaging to other students.