Monday, November 24, 2014

TerraSwarm PI, Alex Halderman, Part of New Certificate Authority Initiative to Encrypt the Entire Web

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) announced a new certificate authority (CA) initiative called Let’s Encrypt which was put together with Mozilla, Cisco, Akamai, IdenTrust and University of Michigan Researchers.  TerraSwarm PI, Alex Halderman (UMich), is one of the core team working on the Let’s Encrypt CA and agent software.

The goal of Let’s Encrypt CA is to clear the remaining barriers to transition the Web from HTTP to HTTPS so that every website is HTTPS by default. It is scheduled for launch in 2015 and will automatically issue and manage free certificates for any website that needs them.

The main obstacle to deploying HTTPS in the past has been the complexity, bureaucracy and cost of the certificates required by HTTPS. Let’s Encrypt will reduce encryption set up time dramatically and will employ a number of new technologies to manage secure automated verification of domains and issuance of certificates. It will be operated by a new non-profit organization called the Internet Security ResearchGroup (ISRG).

To read more about Let’s Encrypt and the technologies being used to manage secure automated verification of domains and issuing certificates, go to “Launching in2015: A Certificate Authority to Encrypt the Entire Web”.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

TerraSwarm PI Vijay Kumar Demonstrates Agile Robust Quadrotors

At the University of Pennsylvania GRASP Lab, TerraSwarm PI Vijay Kumar and researchers Yash Mulgaonkar and Gareth Cross have created small robust quadcopters that can recover from mid-air collisions or even right themselves after an impact.

According to an article published on, the team has taught the quadroters flocking behavior. The project was started earlier this year with the design and development of the pico quadrotor. A video shows 4 pico quadrotors in a ‘tactical delta formation’.   Multiple pico quadrotors can also fly in formation while following the leader.

None of these robots or quadrotors need much computing power to maintain level flight. Because each little robot has a set of sensors and processors built-in, all of this behavior can happen in real time without connection to a back-end computer.

To see these amazing little quadrotors in action or to read the entire Techcrunch article (“Watch these Tiny Robots As They Fly Well with Others”), go to:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

TerraSwarm PI Kevin Fu on the FDA's Medical Device Cyber Security Guidelines

TerraSwarm PI Kevin Fu (University of Michigan) was recently interviewed about the FDA’s newly released guidance on medical device cyber security for an article in MD+DI Online. Fu, who has been an advocate of tightening up the cyber security of medical devices, says the new FDA recommendation will provide necessary consistency in cyber security and help the industry make more secure devices.
In the article Fu is quoted:
“The guidance will help stop the bleeding. However, the guidance falls short on system engineering. Historically, medical devices were simple, stand-alone components. Now they are complex interacting systems. Security problems tend to come from unexpected emergent properties when different devices interact, and this context begins to fall outside of FDA's Congressional remit.” 
He warns: “Some of the guidance on passwords may lead to a false sense of security. It's a constantly evolving science, and I think passwords are fundamentally flawed.”
To read the entire article, please visit: Researcher: FDA CyberSecurity Guidance Will Help ‘Stop the Bleeding.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Rahul Mangharam Talks about Emerging Trends in Wireless Battery Power

TerraSwarm PI,  Rahul Mangharam (UPenn) recently spoke about the emerging trends in the market for wireless chargers on the Knowledge@Wharton show on Wharton Business Radio on SiriusXM channel 111.

According to Mangharam:
“Demand is growing for hassle-free battery charging and the availability of universal wireless chargers that work across brands. The technology is here and ready to be used, and [we see] a lot of commercial activity at the retail level. New solutions are coming out that are much more efficient and much more convenient.”
Battery power has not kept pace with the growth in demand for services on phones. As users rely more heavily on their mobile devices, Smartphones and tablet makers that can reduce power consumption of these devices will gain competitive advantage.
In the podcast, Mangharam also outlines the efforts underway to develop industry-wide standards for wireless charging technology.

To listen to the podcast or read the accompanying article, go to:

Flaw Exposed in Leading Internet Standard for Network Clock Synchronization

John Eidson, working with the group of TerraSwarm PI Lee, has exposed a serious flaw in a leading Internet standard for network clock synchronization, and has developed a fix to the protocol that will be voted on by the ITU this fall.  Specifically, he used modeling techniques being developed under theme 4, prototyped in Ptolemy II, to construct a discrete-event (DE) model for the best master clock algorithm in the two leading international standards for network clock synchronization, IEEE 1588-2008 and the ITU-T G.8275.1/Y.1369.1 (7/2014). The latter is a profile of IEEE 1588-2008 targeted at providing clock synchronization in layer 2 Ethernet telecommunications networks with full on-path support, where all network devices, typically routers and bridges, adhere to this profile. These networks are key to the correct operation of cellular-based telecommunications.

The ITU standard, consented to in July of this year, has a flaw that can lead to misconfigured networks potentially with independently synchronized islands of devices or other unintended conditions.

The Ptolemy DE models implement all critical specifications of these standards with respect to the best master clock algorithm, BMCA. The BMCA is used to determine the timing synchronization spanning tree and to select the clock to be the root of this tree. The ITU-T profile adds an additional feature not present in 1588-2008 to force a port to be in the master state. Simulating the profile operation using the Ptolemy model revealed that there was a significant error in the ITU specification that, uncorrected, would lead to anomalous behavior --- certainly not the intended behavior. The error involved incorrect logical execution order, a condition made highly visible by the capabilities of Ptolemy DE models. Unfortunately this error is not a corner case and would occur quite often. Using the model, a correction to the profile was tested.

The ITU-T Q13; working group was notified of the fault and the proposed correction. They have since written a proposal to correct the fault using the correction proposed based on the Ptolemy model study. This correction proposal was approved  at the September interim meeting for consent at the November plenary meeting.

Eidson's model heavily exploits Ptolemy's innovative multiform model of time, so it is unlikely that this model could have been reasonably constructed using existing commercial tools such as Simulink, SimEvents, or Rhapsody.

About John Eidson:  

John Eidson worked for many years at HP Labs and Agilent.  He is known as the father of IEEE-1588, the Precision Time Protocol.  In 2013, Dr. Eidson was given the Time Lord award at the International Telecommunications Synchronization Forum.