June 5th, 2015 by David Evans

I went to a very interesting meeting at Darmstadt: CROSSING – Where Quantum Physics, Cryptography, System Security and Software Engineering meet. Lots more diversity than my typical computer security meeting, including a lively debate on quantum physics and superfluid vacuum theory between Nicolas Grisin (founder of ID Quantique and Ross Anderson. Interesting to learn that China is building a huge quantum key distribution network.

I gave a talk on Multi-Party Computation for the Masses:

CROSSING is a 12-year project funded by the German Science Foundation (with reviews every 4 years). Gives some context to US funding agencies that talk about long-range visionary projects with 5-year timelines.

SRG at Oakland 2015

May 24th, 2015 by David Evans

Several SRGers were at IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy (“Oakland” in San Jose).

Yuchen Zhou presented his work on Understanding and Monitoring Embedded Web Scripts. Yuchen graduated with his PhD the day before the conference, and will be joining Palo Alto Networks.

Samee Zahur is a co-author (along with Benjamin Kreuter, who is an “in-progress UVa PhD student” diverted by Google, and several researchers from Microsoft Research) on the paper, Geppetto: Versatile Verifiable Computation, which was presented by Bryan Parno.

Samee also presented a poster on Obliv-C.

Weilin Xu presented a poster on Automatically Evading Classifiers

It was also great to see SRG alums Yan Huang (who is not at Indiana University, and was a co-author on the paper about ObliVM), Jon McCune (who is now working on trusted computing at Google) and Adrienne Felt (who was the keynote speaker for the W2SP workshop, and gave a very interesting talk about user-facing security design and experiments in Google Chrome; Adrienne’s first paper was in W2SP 2008 when she was an undergraduate at UVa).

Graduates Lunch

May 6th, 2015 by David Evans

srg lunch

SRG Graduates Lunch, 6 May 2015

Congratulations Samee Zahur!

April 30th, 2015 by David Evans

Samee Zahur won the Computer Science Outstanding Graduate Research Award, our department’s annual award for the most outstanding graduate student. Congratulations to Samee on the much-deserved award! (Unfortunately, Samee wasn’t present to receive the award since he is in Sofia presenting his half gates work at Eurocrypt 2015.)

Congratulations Dr. Zhou!

April 14th, 2015 by David Evans

Yuchen Zhou successfully defended his PhD thesis on Improving Security and Privacy of Integrated Web Applications! The dissertation was approved by his committee: Shuo Chen (Microsoft), Joanne Dugan, Kevin Sullivan, Westley Weimer, and Ronald Williams.

Congratulations to Yuchen Dr. Zhou!

Libra Link: Improving Security and Privacy of Integrated Web Applications.

Understanding and Monitoring Embedded Web Scripts

March 26th, 2015 by David Evans

Modern web applications make frequent use of third-party scripts, often in ways that allow scripts loaded from external servers to make unrestricted changes to the embedding page and access critical resources including private user information. Our paper describing tools to assist site administrators in understanding, monitoring, and restricting the behavior of third-party scripts embedded in their site, and what we’ve learned by using them, is now available: Yuchen Zhou and David Evans, Understanding and Monitoring Embedded Web Scripts, IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy 2015.

Yuchen will present the paper at the Oakland conference (in San Jose) this May.

Project Site:

Who Does the Autopsy?

March 25th, 2015 by David Evans

This (perhaps somewhat oversensationalized) article in Slate draws from Nate Paul’s research on medical device security: If you Die after Someone Hacks Your Glucose Monitor Who Does the Autopsy? (Slate, 13 March 2015).

According to researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in 2003 and 2009 respectively, the “Slammer” and “Conficker” worms had each successfully infected networked hospital systems responsible for monitoring heart patients. Since the days of Slammer and Conficker, malware has since become even more sophisticated, and a Trojan with a specifically engineered piece of malicious code, could cause harm to numerous patients around the world simultaneously.

While a small community of researchers, and even some government regulators, such as the FDA and FTC, have begun to pose important questions about the privacy and security implications of incorporating computer technology into biological systems, so far law enforcement and criminal justice authorities have been mostly absent from any substantive conversations.

iDash Competition Winner

March 17th, 2015 by David Evans

Congratulations to Samee Zahur for winning the iDash Secure Genomics competition (Hamming Distance challenge task), sponsored by Human Longevity, Inc. A video of the event is available at

Samee’s solution was built using Obliv-C, and the code will be posted soon.

Giving Web Developers Tools to Protect Their Sites and Users

February 9th, 2015 by David Evans

UVAToday has an article about Yuchen Zhou’s work on analyzing web scripts: Giving Web Developers Tools to Protect Their Sites and Users, UVAToday, 5 February 2015.

Zhou also devised a tool that developers could use to constrain the activity of the hundreds of scripts they typically embed in a website. In the process of performing analytics or placing ads, these scripts gather user-generated information on a page and send it to their servers. There is no guaranteeing, however, that these servers are secure or that the companies offering these services are trustworthy. In other cases, scripts ostensibly offering a benign service like analytics could take over the page, replacing the site-owner’s ads with their own ads or stealing private user information from the page.

Rather than try to develop rules for every page on a site, Zhou’s tool generates a set of policies that can be applied to the site as a whole. It catalogs the elements of the site based on their content and their relationship to the structure of the page and specifies which elements can be accessed by specific scripts. “We’ve found that using a white list approach – specifying which elements a script can use rather than those it can’t – is more effective because it is easier to automatically identify public elements like an ad placeholder than sensitive information in the page,” Zhou said. The site owner can then review the policies and grant permissions accordingly.

Gogo’s Fake SSL Certificates

January 15th, 2015 by David Evans

Group alumna Adrienne Felt is in the news for reporting that Gogo in-flight wifi service is generating fake SSL certificates.

From Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi Undermines Encryption, Slate FutureTense, 5 Jan 2015:

Wi-Fi on planes is unreliable and expensive. Even worse: Service from Gogo—one of the primary providers of in-flight Internet—has a lot of strange insecurities. Google engineer Adrienne Porter Felt realized during a flight on Friday that, for Google services and possibly others, Gogo was undermining encryption meant to keep pages secure.