Thursday, September 24, 2015

TerraSwarm researcher Alex Halderman is one of PopSci's Brilliant 10

University of Michigan Professor and TerraSwarm-funded researcher J. Alex Halderman has been named one of PopSci's Brilliant 10.  The article "Brilliant 10: Alex Halderman Strengthens Democracy Using Software," discusses Halderman's 2010 efforts surrounding a mock Washington D.C. election where researchers were invited to break into the electronic voting system.  Halderman and his group were able to take complete control of the system, which they directed to play the Michigan fight song each time a vote was cast.

The article also covers TapDance, software that allows citizens of countries with restricted firewalls to bypass government censors.  TapDance is described in the following paper

* Eric Wustrow, Colleen Swanson, Alex Halderman. TapDance: End-to-Middle Anticensorship without Flow Blocking, Usenix Security 2014, 20, August, 2014.

Abstract: In response to increasingly sophisticated state-sponsored Internet censorship, recent research has proposed a new approach to censorship resistance: end-to-middle proxying. This concept, developed in systems such as Telex, Decoy Routing, and Cirripede, moves anticensorship technology into the core of the network, at large ISPs outside the censoring country. In this paper, we focus on two technical barriers to the deployment of end-to-middle proxy designs-- the need to selectively block flows, and the need to observe both directions of a connection-- and we propose a new construction, TapDance, that avoids these shortcomings. To accomplish this, we employ a novel TCP-level technique that allows the anticensorship station at an ISP to function as a passive network tap, without an inline blocking component. We also apply a novel steganographic encoding to embed control messages in TLS ciphertext, allowing us to operate on HTTPS connections even with asymmetric flows. We implement and evaluate a proof-of-concept prototype of TapDance with the goal of functioning with minimal impact on normal ISP operations.

This work was supported in part by TerraSwarm, one of six centers of STARnet, a Semiconductor Research Corporation pro- gram sponsored by MARCO and DARPA.

Note that in 2014, University of Michigan Professor and TerraSwarm-funded research Prabal Dutta was named one of the Brilliant 10.  See "The Brilliant Ten: Prabal Dutta Powers The Internet of Things."

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